Although wine is produced all over Italy, Tuscany tends to steal the limelight most of the time. But down in the south, the island of Sicily is emerging as one of the country’s most exciting wine-producing areas. It used to be a bulk producer, exporting grapes to other parts of Italy to be mixed with regional varieties, but nowadays the island’s varied soils are producing some fantastic white and red wines.
We headed to a tasting hosted by wine connoisseurs The Vineking to find out more about Sicily’s wines and to taste a few for ourselves. The tasting was hosted by Mark, an extremely knowledgeable wine expert who also has a love for Sicily – in between samples, he would fill us in on the island’s history, the stories behind the vineyards, and his favourite places on the island.
The first wine we tasted was a 2014 Segreta Bancio, a light, refreshing white with hints of honey and spice. It’s often served as house white in Sicilian restaurants. We then moved on to the 2014 Ciello Bianco Catarratto from Alcamo. It has a cloudy appearance, a bit like grapefruit juice. Mark explained that this is due to the wine only being lightly filtered, which helps give it a much stronger flavour. He also suggested pairing it with a seafood dish, such as moules marinière.
Next up was a 2013 Mandrarossa, an unoaked Chardonnay with a rich, fruity flavour.
It was followed by my favourite wine of the night, a 2013 Cusumano Insolia. It’s technically a dry white, but it tastes slightly sweet, with hints of fruits like apples and pears. That was then followed up with a rich Cusumano Shamaris Grillo, produced in Monreale in the north-west of Sicily, and a 2013 Alta Mora Etna Bianco – one of the biggest hits of the night. The grapes are grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, where eruptions constantly change the make-up of the soil, so the taste of the wines can differ quite a bit from year to year.
It was then on to the reds, kicking off with a 2013 Maree D’Ione Nero D’Avola. It’s produced in Sicily’s south-east corner, close to Trapani, from grapes which are all picked by hand. Taste-wise, it was slightly peachy, with a dose of peppery spice.
We then tried a 2013 Mandrarossa Merlot, which was slightly softer than the Nero D’Avola and had a touch of oakiness. The next wine we tried, a Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria, is Sicily’s only DOCG wine. Mark suggested its slight cherry flavour would go well with traditional Italian dishes like pizza, pasta and risotto. The following wine, a 2013 SP 68 Rosso Occipinti, was also a good food wine, and was quite a smoky red.
Our final two reds were a 2012 Setteporte Etna Rosso, a light, refreshing drink produced on Etna’s slopes, and a 2009 Gulfi Nerojbleo, a warm red from Ragusa.
We finished the night off in true Sicilian style, with a glass of Marsala. This sweet, almondy wine is almost always brought out over dessert in Sicily, or as an aperitif.