Tradition meets innovation in Sicilian wineries

Wine has been associated with Sicily since the time of the ancients, when vines were brought to the island by Greek colonists.

Historically famous for its sweet Muscats produced from sun-dried grapes, either on the vine or in the sun, and later the fortified Marsala, produced in a perpetuum system similar to the sherry solera system, the fortunes of wineries in Sicily waned in the twentieth century when subsidies encouraged Sicilian wineries to wring high yields from their vines. Sicily became the most productive Italian region, with cooperatives pumping out bulk wine to be shipped north for boosting more anaemic wine in northern Italy and France.

However, this has now changed and recent years has seen a surge in foreign investment and the emergence of small boutique, family-run Sicilian wineries, and a greater focus on quality and sustainable viticulture. International varieties are widely planted, but Sicily’s palette of indigenous varieties is increasingly coming under the spotlight.

Despite being searingly hot in the summer – not necessarily ideal conditions for high quality wineries - Sicily is Italy’s hottest, driest region, indeed much of the island is more southerly in latitude than Tunisia, you are never very far from the sea and much of the island is hilly or mountainous, with peaks remaining covered in snow for much of the winter. Sicily’s classic Mediterranean climate provides the ideal environment to ensure grapes reach phenological ripeness but still retain sufficient acidity for wines to be bright and fresh. Gentle sea breezes guaranteeing a dry ventilated climate mean that it’s the perfect environment for organic viticulture as the vines are dry and aerated keeping rot and mildew to a minimum.

Sicily is an exciting destination for wine lovers with a beguiling range of terroirs to discover, in particular volcanic soils and landscapes. Still active volcano Etna is a spectacular backdrop for some of the best wineries in Sicily and Italy’s highest vineyards, with vines growing at altitudes of up to 1200m above sea level. Wineries in Sicily are not confined to its mainland, but can also be found on the wind-swept slopes of Pantelleria, closer to Africa than Sicily, and the Aeolian islands, where luscious sweet wines are produced a stone’s throw away from Stromboli, constantly active with minor eruptions and thus dubbed ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’.

Wineries in Sicily are scattered all over the island in its 19 DOCs, 1 DOCG and the supra-regional Sicilia DOC, which covers the whole island. The best wineries in Sicily often have several locations around the island in order to take advantage of Sicily’s varied terroirs, typical indigenous varieties and local specialities. For example, Planeta owns five vineyards throughout Sicily, so that they can pay homage to Sicily’s range of traditional varieties, as does Donnafugata, originally a Marsala bottler, but now with wineries in three different regions. Volcanic terroir is a must for at least one winery.

Sicily is not only a paradise for wine lovers, but also for food lovers, with one of the most richly diverse cuisines in Italy thanks to its myriad foreign rulers, so some wineries in Sicily also offer visitors the chance to learn more about the local cuisine through participating in cookery lessons.

Given Sicily’s abundance of indigenous varieties, exciting terroirs, organic winemaking and winemakers combining tradition and innovation, Sicilian wineries have something to suit all tastes.

For more information visit our Sicily destination page before you start planning your visits to wineries in Sicily and experiencing the variety of exciting wines that Sicilian wineries have to offer.

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