This beautiful island nestled comfortably in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea just off the toe tip of mainland Italy will forever conjure images of large ‘family’ weddings, heavily starched shirt collars and Marlon Brando’s disapproving glare. With this imagery holding firmly onto that warm and fuzzy place in my heart, I would like to turn your attention to the centuries old Sicilian winemaking traditions, explore some of the wonderful and varied wines available, and make you an offer you can’t refuse…
Sicily produces an astonishing variety of wines ranging from crisp aromatic whites, light and fruity reds, deep rich reds loaded with dark chocolate and spice, all the way through to luscious sweet wines and Marsala packed full off candied fruit peel and toasty almond richness. The island is separated into various DOC zones planted to a phenomenal range of indigenous varietals, usually planted in specific areas to make best use of the soil types, high elevations, sun exposure, and volcanic soils courtesy of the ever present Mount Etna.
If you ever find yourself stopping off for lunch after a casual stroll around the western side of the island, it would not be complete without sampling a nicely chilled glass of Donnafugata ‘Anthilia’ 2010 ($12.99). A blend of Ansonica and Catarratto, this is an elegant wine with hints of white peach and a crisp yet lingering finish.
After enjoying some of the delicious white wines, the reds really begin to pick up the pace, and with so many different varieties and styles available there is something for everyone. For the Pinot Noir lovers out there, getting hold of a bottle of Antica Tenuta Del Nanfro Frappato 2009 ($18.99) is an absolute must. Made with 100% Frappato, this is a light and delicate wine packed full of bright berry fruits with a subtle hint of spice, finishing with very gentle tannins. This would make a perfect accompaniment to antipasti and dishes on the lighter side. Considering Sicily is one of the world’s largest olive producers it would be a crime not to include a few alongside this wine. On the heavier end of the spectrum lies the Nero D’avola grape, a classic Sicilian varietal expressed beautifully in the Firriato ‘Harmonium’ 2007 ($35.99), a richly textured wine with great persistence on the palate, balanced with intense barrel spice and floral high notes.
If you are looking for something with a hint of adventure, the eastern edge of the island is home to the Etna DOC with may of its vineyards covering the slopes of Mount Etna – the largest active volcano in Europe. This DOC produces wines that are very different in style to other parts of Sicily, owing to its very particular soil types and high elevation, producing wines closer in style to those of Burgundy or Barolo. An excellent example is the Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Santo Spirito 2009 ($49.99). Etna Rosso wines are composed of a minimum of 80% Nerello Mascalese with the remaining being made up of a varietal called Cappuccio.
Sicily also has a great reputation for its sweet wines and Marsala, perfect for finishing off a meal in style. Some of the greatest sweet wines actually come from an island called Pantelleria, located in the strait of Sicily, approximately 50 miles off teh coast of Tunisia. A fine example is the D’ancona ‘Cimillya’ Passito di Pantelleria 2005 ($49.99) made from the Zibbibo member of the Moscato family. A Passito wine is typically of higher quality than a basic Moscato; the grapes are dried or ‘raisined’ creating a higher alcohol and sugar content which leads to a rich, luscious and decadently sweet experience.
If this Passito is not enough for you, try one of Sicily’s fortified Marsalas, a cask-aged, sweet, rich wine with toasted nutty aromas. The Marco de Bartoli “Vigna la Miccia” ($39.99) is an excellent example of this style and will end a meal perfectly with the flavors lingering on the palate well into the evening.
After enjoying some of the amazing variety of wines on offer from this beautiful Mediterranean Island, you may find yourself sharing, as I do, the philosophy of the great Don Corleone himself:
Don Corleone: “I like to drink wine more than I used to. Anyway, I’m drinking more.”
Michael Corleone: “It’s good for ya’ pop.”
Christian B., Beltramo’s Wine Consultant