Types of Sicilian wine

Whites

* Catarratto - probably not indigenous, but found mainly in the area around Trapani. Rarely found used on its own, more often to be found blended with other varieties to give more structure and interest to the wine.

* Carricante - found exclusively around Etna and has been for centuries. It is one of the bases for the DOC Etna Bianco Superiore.

* Grecanico - probably Greek in origin, it is now diffuse all over the island. It grows very well in the area around Trapani as it can withstand the brackish winds common to the area.

* Grillo - probably Pugliese in origin and only introduced in 1897 after the devestation caused by the phylloxera. It produces wines with a relatively high alcohol content and is one of the bases used for good Marsala.

* Inzolia/Ansonica - possibly Greek in origin, mainly found in the west of Sicily, where it produces fresh, structured and intense wines.

* Malvasia di Lipari - grown only on the Aeolian islands, mainly on Salina, it was probably introduced by the Greeks in 5C. BC. It forms the base of the sweet wine of the same name.

* Moscato Bianco - very old variety cultivated all over the Mediteranean and used to produce both the DOC Moscato di Noto and DOC Moscato di Siracusa. Production of both is limited due to the difficulties created by the effects of climate and the techniques that must be used to produce the wine.

* Moscato di Alessandria/Zibbibo - probably Egyptian in origin and introduced to Sicily by the Romans. It is only to be found on Pantelleria and the arid conditions mean that production is severly limited.

Sweet Wines

Sicily produces some excellent sweet wines, of which the most famous is the Moscato di Pantelleria, made from Zibbibo and the Moscato di Siracusa, made from the white Muscat grape. Another sweet wine is produced on the island of Lipari from Malvasia. Mention must also be made of Marsala.

Marsala, like sherry, can be an aperitif or a digestif, a fortified wine or aged as a solera sherry. It was 'invented' in 1773 by John Woodhouse, an English Madeira wine merchant, who having being forced into port by a violet storm, on sampling the local wine detected something similar to that which he normally traded. He took a gamble and shipped a considerable consignment home to sound the market, but only after having fortified it with alcohol to survive the sea voyage. On arrival it had turned into Marsala and proved extremely popular. The first Italian house to produce Marsala was Florio who bought out Woodhouse, but maintained quality. Pellegrino was established in 1880 and produces excellent quality Marsala. In 1963 DOC regulations were introduced to control Marsala and ensure quality. It can either be dry, semi-dry or sweet but the main denomination is relative to the amount of time it has had to mature, from 1 year to 10 and more. It is made from grapes with a high natural sugar content, Grillo, Catarratto and Insolia. It forms the base of zabaglione and is used in many Sicilian recipes

Reds

* Frappato (di Vittoria) - 1st records of this variety date from the 17th C, but there is argument as to whether it is indigenous or was introduced by the Spanish. It is one of the bases for the Cerasuolo di Vittoria.

* Perricone/Pignatello - it is known by these two names in Palermo and Trapani respectively. It is often mixed with the Nero d'Avola to give wines with a more interesting structure.

* Nerello Cappuccio/Mantellato - its origin is unknown but it grows mainly in the province of Messina. It is also found around Reggio Calabria and Catanzaro and is often blended with the Nerello Mascalese to increase the longevity of the wine.

* Nerello Mascalese - very different to the Nerello Cappuccio. It has been present on the slopes of Etna and around Mascali for at least 400 years.

* Nero d'Avola/Calabrese - most commonly grown red grape in Sicily, found in the provinces of Agrigento, Siracusa, Caltanissetta and Ragusa. It is often blended with Frappato and Cabernet Sauvignon. According to the Gambero Rosso it is now the most sought-after red in Italy.