by Kevin Keith
Sicily is an ancient place. Wine has been a part of the Sicilian culture for over 3,000 years. The Greeks brought over their winemaking technology around the 8th Century B.C. Romans traded Sicilian wine as a sign of their status and wealth. Most folks, when they think of Sicily, associate it as one of the birthplaces of the mafia (not sure why I make this point), yet for me, images of the city of Catania, along the eastern coast, with the image of the mighty Mount Etna towering above its skyline as its citizens and tourists walk along the beaches below (it is what Pindar, the great poet of ancient Greece, referred to as the pillar of the sky) - that is what I think of when I think of Sicily.
The emergence of Sicilian wines is a bit of a perfect storm, with influences and investments over the past 20-30 years from mainland Italian winemakers - as well as those from France and the U.S - ideal weather with warmer temperatures and cooling coastal breezes at night, and the fertile growing conditions provided by volcanic soils: Sicily is a veritable bread basket for viticulture.
Always smoldering, the very active volcano known as Mount Etna has a large impact on the island and its viticulture. The dark, black soils resulting from constant eruptions over time had led to some of the most fertile growing conditions and subsequently, some of the most incredible wines being made today. And while there are many non-indigenous grape varieties permitted in the D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. wines made in Sicily, it is the native grapes that one must seek out above all else.
For the white wines, seek out these grape varieties:
And for the reds:
Sicily is actually the third-largest wine-producing region (behind Veneto and Emilia-Romagna), primarily driven by the production of the fortified wine Marsala. It is also known for its production of the liqueurs Amaro Averna and Limoncello. Yet it is the wine that pulls us closer, and the list below is just a taste of what Sicily has in store for you, waiting, beneath the pillar of the sky...