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Meet the First Family of Sicilian Wine: Donnafugata

Gourmet minded travelers adore Sicily for its varied wines just as much as its equally varied cuisine. Here, one Sicily lover shares ten of the best Sicilian wines and how she became hooked on them. I was hooked. For our next adventure, we drove west to taste the nutty and complex Marsala wines, then flew to the island of Pantelleria where the low vines grow in sandy soils.

We nibbled on cassatedde, pastry pockets filled with ricotta cheese and drizzled with honey, and sipped on sweet Passito wine that encapsulated golden raisins in a bottle. Pantelleria, photo: Gina Tringali. I fell in love with this versatile red wine as well as with the young winemaker who had made a name for herself as a champion for Frappato. Mount Etna, on the east coast of Sicily where the oldest grapevines are found, was the destination of our next wine holiday.

We tasted white, rose and red wines at three estates and ate a home-cooked meal in the backdrop of the volcano. Mount Etna, photo: Gina Tringali. Grapes are planted all over Sicily. In fact, the Sicilians have been making wine for around three thousand years, so it should come as no surprise that getting to know Sicilian wines is a never-ending pursuit.

They are cultivated all over the island, but most notably in the provinces of Palermo, Agrigento, and Trapani. When treated well, Catarratto can make a wine that is fresh and delicate with bright citrus and herbal aromas and grillo is medium to full-bodied with slightly herbaceous and floral notes. Grecanico is principally a variety used in blends. It has a fresh apple taste and good acidity. When blended with Inzolia, the wine is nutty and honey like in character. The best versions have a nutty character and are refreshing like an ocean breeze.

The Top Ten Best Sicilian Wines

Palmento, photo: Gina Tringali. Planted in the volcanic ash of the Aeolian islands of Salina and Lipari, the malvasia grape evokes honey, citrus blossoms and freshly picked apricots in a glass. More caramel and honey concentrated that Malvasia di Lipari, it has aromas of apricots, candied orange peel, and fresh figs. Planted mainly in the province of Ragusa, particularly near Vittoria, this fruity, playful and fresh red is an explosion of red fruit and savory and floral notes like saltiness, lavender, and freshly mowed grass.

Usually light in color and alcohol, the first sip contains a burst of red-fruit flavors, followed by lively acidity and gentle tannins, making it delightfully easy to drink. With time, two winemaking styles prevail. The first style is dark and concentrated with black fruit aromas with coffee, chocolate, and tobacco flavors from aging in oak barrels. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon this is your wine. The second style is more elegant with red cherry fruit flavors, fresh grassy notes and little if any oak aging.

Your email address will not be published. Prev Next. Palmento, photo: Gina Tringali 6. You May Also Like. Typical American food: 10 dishes you should try. Previous Article Previous post:.Like its sisters Port and Sherry, Marsala is a fortified wine with an alcohol content of around twenty percent.

It is usually made from native Grillo, Catarratto, or Inzolia grapes. John Woodhouse established his winery at Marsala in Benjamin Ingham founded a competing firm infollowed by Vincenzo Florio, a Calabrian, in Larger vintners such as these have always dominated the Marsala wine trade, though smaller firms have entered the field in recent years.

For more than a century, Marsala was the equal of Sherry and Madeira, if not Port. Some marsala makers prefer to categorise it according to terms used for Port wine, such as tawny. Truth be told, there are dozens of kinds of Marsala wine, some unique to certain houses, each meeting particular standards. Some estates age it in oak casks from the s, making your Marsala experience a piece of Sicilian history. A number of firms produce exceptionally good Marsalas; Florio offers the widest range of types.

Passito, described below, is not a fortified wine. Sicilian egg nog zabaglione is made with Marsala. Purists will tell you that Zibibbo is a grape variety that can be used to make anything from table wine to grappa. However, the Zibibbo made commercially by several houses is a strong wine similar to Marsala but fermented and then partially distilled naturally, without the addition of spirits.

The process differs also in that Zibibbo is actually made from grapes partially fermented in the sun. It is a very old process, and Zibibbo, though not the direct precursor of Marsala, derives from a formula known in the Middle Ages. It is typically slightly lower in alcohol than Marsala about fifteen percent compared to eighteen or twenty percent and sometimes more robust.

The Zibibbo grape is similar to Moscato, and the wine known as Moscato di Pantelleria Naturale is made mostly from Zibibbo grapes. The Primitivo grape is rarely used by itself anymore. Some fascinating genetic research in California indicates that the grape Americans call Zinfandel is actually Primitivo, a Sicilian variety that may have been introduced by the Albanians who settled certain Sicilian communities in the sixteenth century.

It was probably taken to California in the eighteenth century by Spanish colonists or later by Sicilian immigrants. Several liquors unique to Sicily are worthy of mention. Ala, made by Florio, has a distinct flavor, as does Averna, which is made in Caltanissetta.

Fichera, a newcomer, is made near Mount Etna. There are also several mildly fortified almond-flavored white wines which, though not suitable for every occasion, go well with some desserts.

Several Sicilian liqueurs are similar to those produced on the mainland, namely limoncello, from lemons, anisette and amaretto. There are others, such as the interesting liqueur made from prickly pears cactus fruits and Cynar from artichokes. Grappa is actually a brandy distilled from grape seeds and pomace. Dry and high in alcohol, it is usually white and served as an after dinner drink.

In Italy, grappa is often sold in artistically original clear glass bottles which the distillers commission specially for this liquor. Moscato is difficult to describe. It comes from the Muscat grape, of course, or from the sub-variety known locally as Moscatello, sometimes with the addition of Corinto or Zibibbo. A few localities are famous for Moscato. Moscato and Moscato Passito are made by some distinguished wineries on the islands of Pantelleria and Lipari.

As its name implies, Moscato Passito contains Appassito grapes. This brings us to the point that Passito refers as much to a winemaking process as to a specific grape variety. The areas around Siracusa and Noto, in the eastern part of Sicily, also produce fine Moscato wines.Last Updated on September 13, by Katty. Italy has very diverse wine-growing regions. The cool, mountainous northern region of Piedmont produces crisp, austere wines, whereas the sunny, temperate central region of Tuscany yields bold, lusty, full-bodied sensations.

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Italian wines have a complexity and earthiness that reflects the soil, the unique Italian grape varietals, and Italian winemaker craft. Over sixty percent of the wine grown in Italy is red wine. The result is a bold, full-bodied wine in a style more common to warm growing areas. Once picked, grapes are air-dried for three to four months, causing them to shrivel and further concentrate their flavors.

Amarones are aged for five years or more before bottling. Some, but not all, are aged in oak barrels. Amarone the name means big, bitter one is lush and complex. It has a powerful, concentrated, almost Port-like texture with hints of mocha. Best when paired with food, Amarone is ideal with roasted beef or pork and also with cheeses. Barolo is improved by decanting. Barolo is made in the Langhe hills region of Piedmont, entirely of Nebbiolo grapes.

Nebbiolo is a difficult grape to grow well. Barolo is a perfect accompaniment to substantial meats, rich pastas, and creamy risottos. Autumn in Barolo, home to a great Italian red wine. Produced in Tuscany, in central Italy near Florence, Chianti is a government-controlled wine designation.

That means all of the wine called Chianti has to be made within the Chianti area. Chianti is produced from primarily Sangiovese grapes, sometimes combined with a little Cabernet Franc, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chianti is subtle and less harsh than a Cabernet Sauvignon and more elegant than a Zinfandel or a Syrah. It has a high acidity and hints of plum and wild cherry. Chianti and any tomato-based sauce are a classic wine and food pairing, but Chianti also goes well with a steak or other grilled meat.

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Chianti is one of the best-known Italian wines in the world. This wine is made above all of Sangiovese and in a little part of Canaiolo Nero. Normally Chianti has fruity scent and taste dry and soft. The quality of this wine depends, above all, on winery.Sicily has more vineyards than any other region in Italy; it also grows more grapes.

Granted, the vast majority of those vineyards raise grapes for marsala, the sweet and dry fortified wine originally created by a British trader in the 18th century that's produced in the seaside town of the same name.

But in recent years, there's been a lot of excitement around Sicily's regular red and white wines, as producers of bulk wines have started focusing on the quality of their own bottles.

Sicilian wine: everything you need to know

Probably the best-known red grape is nero d'avola, which can range in flavor from jammy and full-bodied to earthy and spicy. In the region Cerasuolo di Vittoria, nero d'avola is often blended with frappato, a fruity grape with a sweet raspberry flavor, which can also be delicious when bottled on its own.

Though grapes have grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna since the fifth century b. The main white variety is carricante, which is light in color but had a big, almost yeasty aroma in the bottles we tried. Etna's best-known red is nerello mascalese, which evokes the gentle fruit flavors of pinot noir it's often blended with another indigenous grape, nerello capuccio.

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sicilian wine brands

Fantastic Sicilian Wines Saveur. Latest Food. Mastering the Art of Neapolitan-Style Pizza. Remember Astronaut Ice Cream?If you are a savant of fine wines, read on and learn more.

On the other hand, if you are not one of cognoscenti, grab a pen and paper, make notes and impress the heck out of your next group of dinner companions. Hopefully, you will not bore them with your new found knowledge. The sommelier will, on the other hand, be somewhat overwhelmed. No need for the treadmill. Just head outside. For students of the historical, Sicily is a locale with many archeological finds and, for the true vacationer - not those with cameras moving at the speed of the shutter, they will encounter a much slower pace than, for example, is evident in Rome Except, of course, for the drivers who are much like their Roman cousins.

Not to be overlooked as a "touristy type thing" are the vineyards; lemon, orange, almond and cherry trees; and olive groves. All of which present a proud heritage of sights and sensual experiences.

The luscious fields of wine-maker Morgante. When it comes to wine, it is safe to say that the times are "a-changing". Much of the high alcohol wines were shipped to Northern Italy where they were blended with cooler climate wines to increase the alcohol content.

It sounded like a plan until recently when the growers came to realize that they could bottle their own wines, while create a very competitive product of which they could be justifiably proud. Etna last eruption was Juneare nourished by the volcanic ash terrain. Also, the area around Catania and Taormina, on the eastern coast, produce approachable wines with names like: Etna Rosso, Bianco and Rosato, while it is the center and western end of the Island, from Agrigento to Marsala, Palermo to Casteldaccia and Vallelunga, that has the wine world swirling and sipping.

The white wines use Inzolia, Cataratto the most planted grapeGrecanicoa and some Chardonnay. Fields of Tasca D'Amerita Regaleali in the mountainous central area with a micro-climate on mountain slopes up to 2, feet, where the cool night air keeps the acidit y high. It can be dry, semi-sweet or sweet. If the label reads Fine, it must have been aged at least one year; Superiore on the label means it was aged for two years; Superiore Riserva, four years; Vergine Soleras, aged up to five years; Vergine Soleras Riserva, aged up to ten years.

The latter two are dry wines normally used as aperitifs. Unfortunately, only the sweet and dry varieties seem to be available in the United States. Something that this writer believes to be a mistake.

The Top Ten Best Sicilian Wines

Other dessert wines include Malvasia di Lipari, produced on the Isles of Lipari off the north coast, and the Moscati di Siracusa, grown on the southeast coast near the town of the same name.

Moscato di Pantelleria, from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, is from the volcanic island of Pantelleria. Cellar of the Duca di Salaparuta winery where Corvo wines age in Slavonian oak barrels. The largest and best-known winery on the island of Sicily is Duca di Salaparutalocated just east of Palermo, and they are sold under the Corvo label. The annual production is overcases so make some room in in your wine cellar. For the record, the transfer of ownership from the government to the private sector was coupled with the changing of importers to a wholly-owned winery operation in the United States and, when you arrive, you will discover a recently built visitors center, museum and tasting room.

The same company, by the way, owns the Florio Marsala brand and I would strongly urge that you try their top-of-the-line Duca Enrico. Another coupling is Rallo Marsala and Donnafugata whose viticulture roots go back years.

Try their white Anthilia and Chianranda. Lombardo Marsala has been in the same family for over years so the expertise and knowledge is obvious. If you have the time to travel about, Planeta is located along the southwest coast and is less than eight years old with owners who are under 35 years of age.

Regaleali is in the mountainous central area a bit of a tricky drive and is in a micro-climate on mountain slopes up to 2, feet, where the cool night air keeps the acidity high. They are both unfined and unfiltered.

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From this vantage point, Sicily has arrived as a quality producer and it seems like the the best is yet to come. Additional producers: Ajello Pellegrino More information: Italian Trade Commission Disclaimer: This section of the website is intended for visitors 21 years of age and older. If you are not of legal drinking age, please exit by clicking here.Dine in a rustic restaurant, or enjoy rural lodging, hiking, wine tastings, cooking classes and more. Visit our working winery near Alcamo and Camporeale in the hills of Sicily's enchanting wine country.

Visit our site for more information. The magic is in the fertile soil and Sicily's long, cloudless summers — with humidity but virtually no rain from June until harvesting in late August — two factors which make Sicilian vintages remarkably consistent from year to year.

Marsala Sicily's most famous wine, Marsala, was first made in the city of that name on the western coast by the Woodhouse firm, which also sold Port. Like its sisters Port and Sherry, Marsala is a fortified wine with an alcohol content of around twenty percent.

It is usually made from native Grillo, Catarratto, or Inzolia grapes. John Woodhouse established his winery at Marsala in Benjamin Ingham founded a competing firm infollowed by Vincenzo Florio, a Calabrian, in Larger vintners such as these have always dominated the Marsala wine trade, though smaller firms have entered the field in recent years. They've brought a welcome family spirit to the industry, which in the last two decades had fallen under the aegis of larger corporate entities.

For more than a century, Marsala was the equal of Sherry and Madeira, if not Port. By the s, however, it found itself relegated to the kitchen as cooking wine, and competition came from unorthodox quarters, with the introduction in the United States of a watery "California Marsala. Today's Marsala is often divided into three different standards, namely oro goldenambra amberand rubino ruby.

sicilian wine brands

Some marsala makers prefer to categorise it according to terms used for Port wine, such as tawny. There are both sweet and dry types, and various categories of which we'll mention just a few. For cooking, there's even a Marsala made with the addition of egg white though you probably won't notice this ingredient.

Truth be told, there are dozens of kinds of Marsala wine, some unique to certain houses, each meeting particular standards. Some estates age it in oak casks from the s, making your Marsala experience a piece of Sicilian history. A number of firms produce exceptionally good Marsalas; Florio offers the widest range of types. Marsala shouldn't be confused with other sweet Sicilian dessert wines of amber colour. Passito, described below, is not a fortified wine. Some pleasant Marsala liqueurs have also been introduced, though they're difficult to find on the market.

Florio makes a fine brandy, and several firms make almond-flavored Marsala, best described as Sweet Marsala with a touch of Amaretto, though it's much more than that. Sicilian egg nog zabaglione is made with Marsala. Zibibbo Purists will tell you that Zibibbo is a grape variety that can be used to make anything from table wine to grappa.

However, the Zibibbo made commercially by several houses is a strong wine similar to Marsala but fermented and then partially distilled naturally, without the addition of spirits. The process differs also in that Zibibbo is actually made from grapes partially fermented in the sun. It is a very old process, and Zibibbo, though not the direct precursor of Marsala, derives from a formula known in the Middle Ages.

It is typically slightly lower in alcohol than Marsala about fifteen percent compared to eighteen or twenty percent and sometimes more robust. The Zibibbo grape is similar to Moscato, and the wine known as Moscato di Pantelleria Naturale is made mostly from Zibibbo grapes.

Primitivo The Primitivo grape is rarely used by itself anymore. Some fascinating genetic research in California indicates that the grape Americans call Zinfandel is actually Primitivo, a Sicilian variety that may have been introduced by the Albanians who settled certain Sicilian communities in the sixteenth century.

It was probably taken to California in the eighteenth century by Spanish colonists or later by Sicilian immigrants.

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Ala, made by Florio, has a distinct flavor, as does Averna, which is made in Caltanissetta.Its warm climate and fertile soils grow grapes in abundance but, until recently, it was best known for churning out cheap bulk wine in massive quantities that was of little interest. In the east is the Etna region, its eponymous volcano still spitting out plumes of ash and lava from time to time, whose wines are causing most excitement right now.

10 of the best Sicilian wines

Its volcanic soils produce wines with a distinctive minerality, mainly from its native carricante white and nerello mascalese red grapes, the best of which are likened to fine burgundies for their elegant structure and sleek finish.

The Sicilians are a proud people who consider themselves very different from the mainland — their dialect is almost indecipherable to Italian speakers, and their food often nods more to North Africa than to that of their northern neighbours — couscous, dried fruits, nuts and spices are commonly used.

Fruity, juicy and really versatile with food. The Sicilians use a lot of dried fruit in their cooking — this would be ace with 0ur chickpea, pepper and bulgar wheat salad.

Slightly under-ripe cherries warmed in the sun. Serve this lightly chilled with dishes such as our tuna with marinated tomato and olive salad. Zibibbo is the Sicilian name for the muscat grape — floral, fragrant and great with Asian-spiced food. It would be ace with our Thai salmon parcels.

A textbook Etna rosso — fresh, crunchy and reminiscent of French pinot noir. Lovely with our spinach, mascarpone and ham hock rotolo, and other light, summery foods.

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Try it with this chargrilled courgette and smoked bacon pasta. This luxury kit from the Personal Barber will make you look forward to your morning shave. Sign up to receive our newsletter!

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