Sicily is the largest island in Mediterranean and if it were a nation, it would rank sixth in the world in wine production! The sun drenched ‘new world meets old world’ style of it’s wine is proving hugely popular with consumers and it produces some of the best value wines that you will find.
Historically only a small percentage of the wine produced was bottled as Sicilian wine. Of the rest, some will have gone into Italian blends, sold as Vino da Tavola, or produce of the European Community.
These days increasing quantities of reasonable, clean ‘supermarket quality’ wines are made by the large co-ops. But it is not these which make the island worthwhile as a wine tour, it is the high quality of the leading private estates, which are at least as good as anywhere else in Italy. These include Donnafugata, Rapitala, Cos, Marsala and Etna.
Sicily is a fascinating place to visit due to the wealth of it’s history. Across the island towns and cities display a startling beauty and grandeur, in a dilapidated kind of way. The Greek temples, the mosaics of the Roman Villa and the Cathedral at Monreale are not to be missed. The story of Sicily is one of repeated invasions – at some point in time Sicily has been taken over by everyone from Greeks, Phoencians to the Byzantines and Arabs, Normans, Swabians, French, Spanish and even the English, left their mark.
There are 1400 kms of coastline and several beautiful, thoroughly sun baked small islands off the coast. In the interior of the island there are mountain ranges, including the snow capped Mt Etna, the highest mountain in Southern Europe. On these mountains and on the hills between them there are areas with relatively cool but very sunny growing conditions, which are not unlike the cool climate regions of Australia.
The coastal plains in the west and south of the island house major vineyards, where local vines, acclimatised to the hot conditions, positively thrive. These areas are not unlike premium warm regions of Australia such as Barossa.
Whilst no wine region is entirely problem free, Sicily is a great place to grow grapes! Spring frost is rare, as is hail. Late summer rain just doesn’t happen, and molds and mildews really don’t enjoy the regular, dry, warm climate.