The following posting is an impression of my visit to Sicily a few years ago and those of my son, Sean, co-owner/winemaker of Sightglass Cellars in Washington, who spent two weeks there with his wife, Kristin, in May.
Sicily is an island of many contrasting natural features, from the snow-capped Mt. Etna volcano, to the tempering presence of the Mediterranean.
Resting between the toe of Italy and North Africa, Sicily is about the size of Massachusetts and is unique among the 20 regions of Italy for its diversity of vineyard sites and grape varieties, making it second only to Veneto in production.
Many Americans think of Sicily as a hot dry land where life is controlled by the Mafia. Crime is a problem in Sicily, as it is everywhere else, but the presence of a criminal element is mostly behind the scenes and doesn't intrude in the daily activities of the wine tourist.
For years, Sicily was known for making oceans of bulk wine and, with the exception of Marsala, little bottled wine. All of this production led to expansion of fine wine in numerous sub-regions throughout the island. Today, there are 23 DOC sub-regions, with Cerasuolo di Vittoria, in the southeast, the only DOCG wine.
White and Black Grapes
Sicily is a dynamic wine region that holds on to the sweet fortified Marsala and a wide variety of indigenous grapes like Nerello Mascalese, while promoting the increasingly popular red Nero d'Avola and widely planted Catarratto and Grillo white grapes.
Far and away, Nero d'Avola is Sicily's best known red wine, made by 84 wineries at last count. A lot of Nero goes into blends, especially with Frappato, a more delicate wine but one that works well in blends. Although Sicily grows more white wine grapes than red, American wine drinkers are most familiar with Nero d'Avola.
Grillo, a popular Sicilian cross of Catarratto and Muscat Alexandria, is a dry wine with the orange zest and floral flavors of Muscat wine, but is more muted than a full Muscat, a wine that is too much for some tastes. Grillo is building interest in Sicily and may soon challenge Cataratto for white wine dominance.
Sicilian winemakers recognize that, to compete in an international market, a winery needs to have a more diverse portfolio than just Nero d'Avola and Catarratto. Thus, international varieties, like Syrah and Chardonnay are gaining interest, as are indigenous grapes like the dark black Nocera and the red twins Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, in vineyards across the island, but notably on the slopes of Etna and in the Faro DOC.
Sicily Region by Region
|Amphorae similar to those at Cos|
Also, one of my favorite people to books and wine education has a website and here page on Sicily is worth reading. https://sicily.guides.winefolly.com/