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Sicily’s Wondrous Winemakers

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

The island of Sicily is located in the Southern part of Italy. It is known for its beautiful beaches, ancient ruins and delicious food - almost representing its own continent rather than an island. For years, the Sicilian wine industry was based largely on the production of Marsala and bulk wine - its winemaking history dates back to the ancient Greeks, who planted vineyards on the island over 2,500 years ago.

Agrigento Temples.

Today, Sicily is home to a wide variety of grapes, but the most notable are Nero d'Avola and Catarratto - and the way they are being produced is transforming. Nero d'Avola is a red grape known for its bold, spicy flavours and high tannins. It is the most widely planted grape in Sicily and is used to make a wide range of red wines, from light and fruity to full-bodied and complex.

Nero D'Avola Grape. Firriato Stories

Catarratto is a white grape known for its light, floral aromas and flavours. It is the most widely planted white grape in Sicily and is used to make a wide range of white wines, from dry and crisp to sweet and floral.

Catarrato Grape. Firriato Stories

In recent years, Sicily has emerged as a wine region to watch, largely thanks to the establishment of the Sicilia DOC. Recognised in 2011 by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food, and Forestry Policies and officially established in 2012, the Consorzio di Tutela Vini DOC Sicilia represents about 3,000 growers and nearly 500 winery members. This large appellation covers many of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, including the above Catarratto and Nero d’Avola, as well as Grillo, Frappato and Perricone - although certain international grapes like Syrah and Chardonnay are also allowed.

Sicily's DOC.

There’s an incredible energy and bond between Sicilian winemakers. The excitement comes with the conviction that they’re on the verge of something momentous to change minds and the reputation of Sicilian wine and their deserved wine recognition. The larger-than-life co-owner of Cusumano Winery, Diego Cusumano,is a dynamic ambassador for the region. He has an absolutely huge passion for Sicily and its wines.

The same can be said for Marco de Grazia. Based in the town of Marsala, Marco has been making wine for over 20 years and is considered one of the top winemakers on the island. He is best known for his red wines, made from the Nero d'Avola grape.

Another notable winemaker in Sicily is Arianna Occhipinti. Based in the town of Vittoria, Arianna has been making wine for over a decade and is known for her innovative winemaking techniques and being a new, modern face of today’s Sicilian winemaking scene. She is best known for her white wines and their light, floral aromas.

Arianna Occhipinti.

These personalities, their incredible families, and the friends around them are supporting Sicily in keeping alive the traditional winemaking method but also experimenting with new techniques and grape varieties to produce wines of high quality and unique character. They are also promoting the island’s wines to the world, and increasingly, Sicily wines are gaining recognition and awards on international scale - hooray to that!

In summary, from the spicy Nero d'Avola to the floral Catarratto and beyond to lesser known grapes, Sicily's wines offer a wide range of flavours and styles. And the winemakers of Sicily are a punchy group of new-wave producers, devoted to keeping the island's winemaking traditions alive while experimenting with new techniques to put Sicily on the map in a big way.

If you want to learn more about Italian Wine, check out our book The Italian Wine Connoisseur: a 7-Day Guide to Mastering Italian Wine.

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