Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sicily used to be known for bulk wine, not anymore...

Sicily used to be known as the Island where bulk wine, blending wine ruled the day. It was basically alot of Catarratto and Trebbiano grapes; and mostly white varieties. The place where Marsala was king ...It still is super famous...

With such great land, microclimates, good people and the right approach over the past 20 years; old vines and volume producing vineyards have been ripped out and replaced with more red and international varietals.
Wine trustworthiness has been a long time coming for Sicily. Today Sicily has 22 DOC (denominazione di origine controllata) regions and one DOCG (denominazione di origine e garantita). Some of these accentuate a single grape variety; while others allow blending. All these areas are busy reveling the best grapes of their territory. There are a lot of IGT’s making wine as well which can represent good values.

Today Nero d’ Avola is the island’s second most planted variety after Catarratto.   There are ten native varieties(they account for  about 80% of all the vines), such as Frappato, Inzolia and Perricone and the like; plus non indigenous varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and others.

Sicily is about 6% the size of California. To put some things into perspective; Sicily has nearly 350,000 acres of vines according to official statistics and produces roughly 200,000 gallons of wine. It’s in 3rd place in the amount of vines to wines to California and then Australia….and not by much. But essentially, Sicily is overflowing in wine.

A lot of the changes have come with successful struggles against organized crime and corruption. Yet Sicilian’s know they have a great wine future. Just like Tuscany, where outsiders had to come in and start making awesome wine, it’s happening in Sicily and changes and inspired improvements have happened and it is specifically because of this that Sicilian’s extremely and enormously renewed their interests in the local varieties.

It’s important to note that Sicily was one of the most ancient Greek conquests, eighth century BC and wine was being made way back then and they have the claim in Italy for being the most ancient and in wine that carries some weight.

Given all this relatively new competitive outlook, it sure comes with its share of complications. But for the wine enthusiast it is great news although it brings confusion as to what’s good, really good and not so good.

Here are some noteworthy producers: Palari, Carlo Hauner, Planeta, Tasca D’ Amerita/Regaleali, Feudi Principi di Butera, Di Bartoli(for Marsala), Benanti and Feudo Montoni.

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