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What to Know and 6 Bottles to Try

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What to Know and 6 Bottles to Try

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Known for its sandy beaches, salty seafood and volcanically influenced wines, Sicily is a Mecca for lovers of all things smoky, salty and terroir-driven. If earthy reds, refreshing whites, or sweet dessert wines are your thing, then this island has something delicious for you.

Where does Sicilian wine come from?

Sicilian wine is produced on the Italian island of Sicily, which lies off the southern tip of mainland Italy. It is the largest island in the Mediterranean and is best known for its ashy, volcanic terrain.

How is Sicilian Wine Made?

Wines from Sicily are vinified in a variety of styles, and their final flavor profile will depend on where the fruit was grown, how it was vinified, and what type of vessel it was matured in. Wine from Sicily is made in red, white, rosé and orange (skin contact) formats. Although most of the island’s wines are dry-vinified, Sicily also has robust sweet wine production in the areas of Marsala and Pantelleria.

What grapes are used in Sicilian wine?

Sicily is home to a number of native varieties, and most of the wines produced on the island are made from these native grapes (as opposed to international, more easily recognizable varieties). Popular white grape varieties are Carricante, Catarratto, Grillo and Inzolia. For red wines, common grapes include Frappato, Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Perricone.

How is Sicily’s terroir?

Although many smaller microclimates exist, Sicily is best known for its volcanic soils, coastal sea breezes, and mountainous terrain. The region is home to 23 DOCs spread across a handful of regions, the most famous of which are Etna, Marsala, and Vittoria.

How does Sicilian wine taste?

The exact flavors found in Sicilian wines are very specific to their maker, variety and region. Most Sicilian wines from the Etna region, however, are characterized by pronounced mineral notes of ash and smoke due to their proximity to Etna. Coastal white wines from other parts of the island are usually fresh and salty.

Nero d’avola-based red wines tend to be earthy and fruity (think Pinot Noir-meets-Nebbiolo), while Frappato-based wines tend to be light-footed, much like Gamay from Beaujolais. Zibibbo-based sweet wines from Pantelleria are aromatic and flavorful, while liqueur wines from Marsala can span the full spectrum. In short, no matter what your taste buds like, there is definitely a Sicilian wine for you.

What makes good food accompaniments with Sicilian wine?

Because of their versatility, Sicilian wines go well with a wide variety of dishes. Salty, unoiled expressions from Inzolia, Grillo or Etna Bianco (Carricante, Catarratto, etc.) come to life when served with salty seafood and fresh raw bar favorites. Light, fruity frappatos taste delicious with a variety of sausages and starters, especially when they are served slightly chilled. Ashy Etna Rossos are a heavenly match with smoky meat and grilled vegetables. And to end your meal with a bang, there’s nothing like a passito-style zibibbo with Italian-inspired pastries. Cannoli, anyone?

These are six bottles to try.

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