The faraway land of Sicily is one that that has caught international interest for hundreds of years. Throughout the centuries, the now-Italian island of Sicily has been under the rule of many different countries, which has helped to develop quite the rich cultural history.
Starting in 8th century BC, Sicily was originally colonized by the Greeks, then it went Roman, followed by the Germanic and Byzantine period. Next was Muslim, then the Viking Age, then…well, you get it. Sicily didn’t actually become part of Italy until the late 1800s.
One of the coolest outcomes of this abundance of cultural involvement is the effect on the culinary personality of the region, which was caused by the indigenous crops that came with each occupying society. The Greeks brought olives, the Romans had wheat, and the Italians helped to encourage the wine industry.
Marsala is Sicily’s most famous wine- it’s an extremely common cooking wine but isn’t really known for its fabulous sipping quality. The good news is there are some fantastic wines grown in Sicily that are perfect for sipping and full-on drinking.
Nero D’Avola is the most widely planted grape in all of Sicily and is considered to be the actual pride and joy. Although the wine itself can take on many forms depending on where it’s grown but as a general attribute, Nero D’Avola is deeply tannic and rich in color.
There’s also Grillo, a crisp white wine that was once used in the production of Marsala but is now planted on over 16,000 acres of Sicily. It resembles a Sauvignon Blanc with the light and citrusy taste, although there are different nuances based on the barrel aging of some and the proximity to the sea of others.
And, less famously but just as important are the Etna Rossos, or the red wines of Mount Etna. These are based on the Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio which combine to create what is known as the New World Pinot Noir.
The important thing to remember here is that Sicily is a major player in not only the Italian wine industry but that of the entire nation. Wines from this small island are unique and special and are quite different from those found in neighboring regions. If you’re lucky enough to snag a Sicilian bottle here in the U.S., don’t take it for granted!
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