. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Sicily is on the wine map now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sicily is on the wine map now.

Sicily is the biggest and one of the most beautiful Mediterranean islands. It has been historically relevant for over 4000 years and it's very likely that it's soils hosted the first grapes ever planted on Italian turf.
It's a magical land that inspired Homer (Polyphemus, the Cyclops defeated by Odysseus dwelt on Mount Etna) as well as many other writers throughout the centuries. The soil is rich and luxurious but also demanding and hard to work - there are very hot and dry summers, fairly rainy and windy with great luminosity. The oldest trace of winemaking, dating back to over 4000 years ago, was found in Sicily, although the island just in recent years has been recognized for the wines. Historically Sicily produced wines to be sold "sfuso" (in bulk) often to France and the north of Italy where, because of the cold climate, there was a need for juices richer in sugars. Today along with the historical estates like Rallo, the king of Marsala, Donnafugata, Conte Tasca d'Almerita and the Duca di Salaparuta, new ones have flourished and in some cases outshone the more renowned estates. Wineries like Planeta, Cos, Valle dell' Acate, Passopisciaro of Andrea Franchetti, Palari, Spadafora, Santa Anastasia and many others helped Sicily to rose from the mediocre and antiquated conception of wine making to having a steady spot in the circle of top wines of the world. Recently I received an email with 90+ Parker ratings on Passopisciaro. The red wine of the year for the Gambero Rosso was indeed Sicilian (Palari Faro 2005) , and there are properties like COS and Spadafora that have embraced bio-sensitive (biodynamic and or organic) growing systems. COS actually started to use amphorae to age their Cerasuolo Pithos. The Cerasuolo di Vittoria (a blend of Nero d'Avola and Frappato) is the 1st DOCG of the island, meaning that now Sicily can sit with the elite of the Italians wine regions.
I had a brief but intense experience down in Sicily: a few years ago I participated in a project for a winery in a little town called Santa Venerina on the Mount Etna slopes. It is an amazing place - the land is black (composed by lava and ashes), very rich in organic substances, south west exposure, with a breathtaking view of Taormina and Giardini Naxos. And with Etna behind all of that, the place radiates a constant powerful energy (since the volcano is still very active you can feel its power just standing next to it). I believe that Sicily is still unappreciated considering the concentration of historical sites, and the spectacular weather. I was swimming in the sea in November, eating the unbelievably fresh and tasty foods, from next-to-alive fish to the typical plates like Caponata, Cannoli and Cassate. You can ski in the winter on Mt. Etna and then start to enjoy the sea in the spring.
I don't think there are many islands in the world that have so many attractive qualities. No, I'm not paid by the Sicilian Tourism Agency. :) Actually, after I split up with my partners in the winery, I haven't be back there, so I'm actually surprised that after so many years, every time I think about Sicily I still have a powerful nostalgia for that magical and impossible island.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

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