Luxurious Magazine’s Sabi Phagura went along to the 16th Sicilia en Primeur in Siracusa, an annual event to mark the end of the wine harvest season on the Mediterranean island.
With almost 100,000 (98,992) hectares of land, Sicily is the biggest wine-growing region in Italy when taking into consideration the amount of terrain populated with vines. Being in the Mediterranean Sea, it finds itself in a privileged position as it has an ideal climate to grow quality grapes.
I’m no wine connoisseur, but I do have the taste buds and a nose to know if I like one. And ultimately, according to most sommeliers, it boils down to just that. But the whole wine industry has had me fascinated for years, and for the first time, I was truly ready to immerse myself in all things connected to wine when I touched down in Sicily. I was to find out almost everything is connected to wine in this “island of the sun”, and it gets everyone’s juices flowing.
To date, more than 60 varieties are grown in Sicily – about 20 of which are native. Among the main red grapes are Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese Frappato, Nerello Cappuccio and Perricone. Coming under the white grape varieties are Zibibbo, Moscato Bianco, Grillo, Carricante and Malvasia. Nero d’Avola is now famous all over the world, while Grillo is the best-known grape variety. It’s no wonder wine tourism here continues to grow with 58 per cent of international visitors ascending here to date. As a result, wineries do not just offer tours and wine tastings – they’ve had to branch out to offer visitors a place to rest their head and restaurant services.
And each vineyard is as unique as the grapes themselves. Our tour, based around the north side of Mount Etna, started at Planeta. A heritage of 17 generations, a visit to this vineyard is akin to an extensive voyage through time. Present in five of the island’s representative wine regions, namely Menfi, Vittoria, Noto, Etna and Capo Milazzo, Planeta continues to research, experiment with international grape varieties and recovering indigenous wines.
But you don’t have to have come from a generation of wine producers to get into the business. Palmento Costanzo winery, located within the municipality of Castiglione di Sicilia, has only been up and running again for about ten years. The restoration project of the early 19th century stone grape press and cellar has been carried out to preserve traditional wine processes used on Mount Etna.
For a wine to be classified as organic is a lengthy process here, and only a few vineyards are registered as such. Established in 1984, Firriato, one of the island’s eminent winemakers, has chipped away for three decades to earn itself a reputation of being organically certified. Divided into six estates, the vineyards encompass land at high altitude on Mount Etna, to that overlooking the Islands of Favignana. This vast area is made up of 420 hectares of organically farmed vineyards.
The diversity of Sicily’s landscape means the whole area is subject to diverse climate conditions. It enjoys mild Mediterranean weather along its coasts, but this changes as you proceed inland or venture up into the mountains, where it is truly continental. And as we were close to the highest mountain, Mount Etna (nearly 3,400 metres in altitude) a visit was a must.
Etna is a substantial mountain and one of the world’s biggest active volcanoes. The frequent eruptions have created a constantly evolving, ever-changing natural landscape. The volcanic deposits, climate variations and subtle thermal changes that occur daily make for a fertile terrain ideal for grape cultivation.
There are several approaches to the volcano, and our tour guide took us up into the mountain in a jeep, taking the circular road that leads up from Linguaglossa to Piano Provenzana. The landscape is mesmerising, to put it mildly, and although Instagram-worthy, there’s nothing like being able to see it and experience it in person.
This year’s 16th Sicilia en Primeur came to a close for the first time in Siracusa at Castello Maniace in the southern part of the island. The exhibition ends the annual calendar of some of the most important events for Sicilian winemakers. And this year was no different. It’s a place to talk about all things wine and culture while sipping on all the varieties produced from the latest harvest.
While my trip to Sicily has not made me into a wine connoisseur, I will certainly look at vino in a different light. For wine in Sicily is entwined with culture and deeply rooted in its rich history. The love of wine is akin to loving and nurturing a child, and every grape is grown with care and dedication. Now that is something to mull over, over a glass or two.
Sicily – Where and How?
The Etna Nord itinerary in Sicily was organised by JustSicily, Via Mario Rapisardi, 15 – 90144 Palermo. They can be contacted on +39 091342927 or +39 091 7479422. For more information on JustSicily’s tour packages, visit www.justsicily.it.
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