Sicilian wines – cheers!

Viticulture in Sicily is a decidedly thriving business: millions of hectoliters of wine are produced from more than 110,000 hectares of vineyards.

The production and consumption of wine has long-standing roots on the island. Organic residues, found in some jars dating back to the Copper Age in the area of Sciacca and Caltagirone, have led to the conclusion that wine production in Sicily was one of the oldest attested in the world. In the eastern part of the island, viticulture spread from the time of Greek colonization, with the system known as “ad alberello.”

Worthy of note is the origin of Marsala wine. This renowned fortified wine owes its production to an English merchant, one John Woodhouse. He and his ship landed in the port of Marsala in 1773, where he applied the soleras method to the area’s wine. This method of Spanish origin provides a way of maturing a product and permits a blending of liquids from different vintages by stacking barrels on several levels.

Still appreciated worldwide, Marsala was the first DOC wine in Sicilian wine history. It is a fortified wine with an alcohol content of 18 degrees.

In order to protect all Italian excellence in the food and wine industry, trademarks have been specially created. Following is an exhaustive list on the various wines produced in Sicily!

Classification of Sicilian wines

Quality and geographic origin are protected by various labels, such as IGT, DOC and DOCG.

The IGT designation stands for “Indicazione Geografica Tipica” (in English, Typical Geographical Indication): a wine, in order to be granted this label, must be produced in the respective geographical indication, and the grapes from which it is made must be at least 85 percent from that area; all organoleptic characteristics must be specified. Since 2010, the IGT classification has been included in the EU category PGI, Indicazione Geografica Protetta (in English, Protected Geographical Indication).

DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata (literally Controlled Designation of Origin), differs from IGT because it also employs a specification on which and how many grape varieties to use: the production areas are thus smaller but the wines have higher quality and higher alcohol content; they are also more full-bodied and more suitable for aging.

DOCG, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (In English, Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin), is the most prestigious designation and indicates those wines that have a set of unique qualities and characteristics that cannot be matched by any other product. The regulations are strict and rigorous: DOCG wines must have been recognized as DOC for at least ten years.

DOC and DOCG labels have been included in the European PDO label, Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin).There are eight wines marked IGT in Sicily, 23 as DOC and one recognized DOCG. Below we list which ones and where they are produced. 

Sicilian IGT wines

  • Avola, wine produced in the province of Syracuse;
  • Camarro, wine produced in the province of Trapani;
  • Fontanarossa di Cerda, wine produced in the municipality of Cerda, in the province of Palermo;
  • Salemi, wine produced in the municipality of Salemi, in the province of Trapani;
  • Salina, wine produced in the Aeolian Islands;
  • Terre Siciliane, wine produced in all Sicilian provinces;
  • Valle Belice, wine produced in the provinces of Trapani and Palermo;
  • Colli Ericini, wine produced in the province of Trapani.

I vini siciliani DOC

  • Alcamo, wine produced in the provinces of Trapani and Palermo;
  • Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG (next section);
  • Contea di Sclafani or Valledolmo Contea di Sclafani, wine produced in the provinces of Palermo, Agrigento and Caltanissetta;
  • Contessa Entellina, wine produced in the province of Palermo;
  • Delia Nivolelli, wine produced in the province of Trapani;
  • Eloro, wine produced in the provinces of Syracuse and Ragusa;
  • Etna, wine produced in the province of Catania;
  • Faro, wine produced in the province of Messina;
  • Malvasia delle Lipari, wine produced on the Aeolian Islands, province of Messina;
  • Marsala, fortified wine produced in Marsala, province of Trapani;
  • Menfi, wine produced in the provinces of Agrigento and Trapani;
  • Monreale, wine produced in the province of Palermo;
  • Noto, wine produced in the province of Syracuse;
  • Syracuse, wine produced in the province of Syracuse;
  • Moscato and Passito di Pantelleria, wine produced in the province of Trapani;  
  • Santa Margherita di Belice, wine produced in the province of Agrigento;
  • Sambuca di Sicilia, wine produced in the province of Agrigento;
  • Sciacca, wine produced in the province of Agrigento;
  • Riesi, wine produced in the province of Caltanissetta;
  • Mamertino di Milazzo, wine produced in the province of Messina;
  • Erice, wine produced in the province of Trapani;
  • Salaparuta, wine produced in the province of Trapani;
  • Vittoria, wine produced in the province of Ragusa.

DOCG wine in Sicily

The only wine in Sicily to be designated DOCG is Cerasuolo di Vittoria. It is a red wine, produced in the provinces of Ragusa, Caltanissetta and Catania. This wine has a bright red color, the aroma is alcoholic and fragrant while the flavor is dry, full-bodied and pleasantly scented. Cerasuolo di Vittoria must be produced from sapling and simple espalier vines. Any forcing practice is prohibited: only relief irrigation may be allowed. The wine requires a period of aging until June 1 of the year following the harvest.

All grape drying, vinification, aging and bottling operations must be carried out in the DOCG area.

In detail, the geographical area of production of Cerasuolo covers about 125 thousand hectares, within the provinces of Ragusa, Caltanissetta and Catania. This area is bordered to the north by the Erei Mountains complex, to the south by the Mediterranean, to the east by the peaks of the Iblei Mountains and to the west by the central-southern hills of the province of Caltanissetta.

Native grape varieties

Among the most famous native red grape varieties are: Nero d’Avola, native to southeastern Sicily; Nerello Mascalese, now one of the most famous, native to the Etna area; Corinto Nero, widespread on the island of Lipari. White grapesinclude Malvasia, mainly for the production of dessert wines; Zibibbo, introduced by the Phoenicians and used for Passito di Pantelleria; Moscato di Noto.

Allochthonous grape varieties

Among the allochthonous grape varieties, meaning those produced outside Sicily, Sirah and Chardonnay are particularly suited to the Sicilian territory.

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