The landscape of Sicilian Wine

Sicilian vines account for 17.5% of the national total of Italian wine, and together with Puglia, Sicily is now the largest producer of Italian wine in Italy. Wine accounts for 15% of Sicily's agricultural production. Although 70% of wine produced in Sicily is white, it is its reds that are causing an international stir. According to the 2005 Gambero Rosso "this is a golden period for Sicilian winemaking", with 15 Sicilian wines being awarded the prestigious Three Glasses in 2005. There are now 19 DOC wine areas in Sicily, mostly concentrated in the Val di Mazara, an area of gently sloping hills to the west of the island. However, the south-east produces some excellent wines, with many of the better known names of grape varieties coming from this area, hence the Frappato di Vittoria and the Nero d'Avola. The islands of Pantelleria, Lipari and Salina also produce wonderful sweet Sicilian wines. Etna, with its unique microclimate, is another important area of production. The variety of topologies that make up Sicily and the different characteristic weather patterns which are then created mean that a huge variety of wines can be produced within a relatively small area. Each individual wine often chosen to compliment famous Sicilian recipes. Sicilian pizza is not enjoued to the full without a glass or two of fine Sicilian wine! Many agriturismo on Sicily boast their own vineyard contributing to the successful Sicilian wine production. The high-altitude of some Sicilian vineyards creates climatic conditions similar to northern regions, with the advantage of much more sunlight. Overall however, the predominant climate is hot and dry which results in characteristically robust and powerful wines. Wine-making is generally accepted to be simpler in the South, where problems with hail, excessive rain and prolongued, freak weather occurences are much rarer. The lack of water also means that there is less need for intervention against moulds and diseases that attack the vines. However, this lack of water means that, despite the hardiness of the vines, tannins in the grapes are much more liable to mature while the grapes are still on the vine. Oenologues working in Sicily therefore need to take this into account when working with the grapes so as not to produce wines which could be described as astringent.

Although, following the phylloxera epidemic, Sicily now grows many international grape varieties, there are some varieties which, because of Sicily's climate are to be found almost exclusively here.