Sicily is Italy’s largest producer of wine, and yet only a small percentage of the island’s production makes it into the bottle as Sicilian wine (the vast majority of it is shipped to northern Italy and southern France to be used in blended wines). And yet, increasingly, Sicily is coming to be recognized as a producer of top wines. The climate is particularly suited for wine growing: hot, sunny, dry, with little chance of rain late in the season, the result is a good vintage year after year. And the fact that the grapes ripen quickly in the hot climate lend it particularly to red wine grapes, versus white.
Most of Sicily’s red wines are made from the nero d’avola grape, either on its own or blended with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or syrah. A thin-skinned variety that is easy to rot and late to mature, Sicily is one of the few places it grows successfully, precisely because of the hot, dry season.
There are a few other varieties, notably nerello mascalese, a deep, spicy grape, and frappato, an acidic, floral varietal. The nerello mascalese, for example, is cultivated on the slopes of Mount Etna (still an active volcano with soil unlike anywhere else), and is now producing notable red wines which are brighter, more agile wines than some of the deeper reds.
Several years ago my husband and I had a chance to drink some fine Sicilian reds both on the slopes of Mt. Etna and in the heart of nero d’Avola country, near the town of Noto in the southeastern part of Sicily. What could be better than exploring baroque Sicily and finishing the day off with a plate of pasta alla norma and a lovely nero d’Avola? Or sitting in the shadow of Mt. Etna and drinking a nerello mascalese with a selection of Sicilian meats and cheeses? Find out on your own culinary adventure in Sicily!
By Peg Kern
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