Sicily, the land of abundant sun, good food, and a rich culture infused with Byzantine and Arabic influences, continues to see growth in tourism and exports. Although Sicilian wines can be inconsistent at times, winemaking is improving at a breakneck pace with prices remaining generally reasonable.
The Etna DOC — located in eastern Sicily on the slopes of the Etna volcano — is one of Sicily’s top denominations. Here are two great options to look for.
* White option: carricante. A thick-skinned, late-ripening Sicilian native, carricante produces wines with flavors of green apple, orange, lemon, honey and mineral, sometimes with anise and saline notes. It is at home in the Etna DOC*, the wines of which are based primarily on a blend of carricante and catarratto: bottles marked as standard Etna bianco contain a minimum of 60% carricante; those marked as superiore have a minimum of 80% carricante. Given carricante’s leading position in the blend, they are delicate wines that display high levels of acidity, making them ideal an partner for simply prepared seafood.
* Red option: nerello mascalese. Genetically connected to frappato, gaglioppo and sangiovese, thin-skinned, late-ripening nerello mascalese offers a more elegant, reserved style of Sicilian red. Wines are light colored with approachable ripe red fruit flavors, pleasant spice and soft tannins. Highly expressive of terroir, they present a trademark mineral earthiness, likely reflecting the high elevation (1000+ meters) volcanic soils around Mount Etna in which the grapes are grown. Wines come at attractive price points and are certainly worth trying, particularly if you are a fan of northern Piedmont’s lighter nebbiolos, Cru Beaujolais or the Loire Valley’s cabernet francs. While you will find most versions in the Etna DOC (80% nerello mascalese), look for them also in the nearby Faro DOC, where the grape makes up the majority (45-60%) of blends.
One of the joys of traveling to Italy is experiencing the traditional local cuisine. Unlike America, the cuisine of Italy changes as you move from region to region (even sometimes, from city to nearby city), with each area having unique recipes, specialties and culinary traditions.
While wines based on the nerello mascalese generally do not pair well with Sicily’s vast seafood repertoire, they make the perfect match for arancini, pasta all norma, panelle, as well as chicken and rabbit dishes. Learn more about the typical foods of Sicily and other regions of Italy
Cultural Travel in Sicily
Having finally won the island of Sicily from entrenched Islamic forces after thirty years of battle, the Normans set upon creating a multicultural kingdom to inspire the world. While the Norman civilization has since faded from history, its brilliant churches, glittering with mosaic decoration, serve as enduring reminders of its greatness. Learn more about the mosaics of Palermo’s churches..