The Wines

Sicilian Wines

Following a long history of overproduction of high alcohol blending wine almost exclusively for the export market, Sicily’s table wine scene has enjoyed a revolution over the last thirty or so years. The focus is now firmly on smaller production and cultivating native grape varieties such as Catarratto, Grillo and Nero d’Avola.

There are over 20 DOC wine regions in Sicily of which the three best known are Etna DOC, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG and Marsala DOC. In addition, you will also encounter Sicilia DOC, an island wide appellation created in 2011 with the aim of promoting Sicilian wine to the overseas market.

Sicilian wine
Sicilian wine

Etna DOC

Despite the area of Etna being cultivated for vines since the 3rd Century it was only in 1968 that Etna was named as the first DOC wine region in Sicily, and one of the first in Italy. Etna enjoys a unique microclimate with a huge variety of temperatures and rainfall levels directly affecting the wines produced throughout the region. Also worth mentioning is that Etna’s volcanic soil proved to be resistant to the phylloxera root pest which destroyed most of Europe’s vines in the second half of the 19th Century, meaning that some of the vines on Etna are over 100 years old. These vines, although fragile, produce excellent wines.

The primary grapes grown on Etna are Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio for red and Carricante for white.

If you enjoy sparkling wine, you will also find DOC Etna sparking rosé and white wines which have at least 60% Nerello Mascalese and a maximum of 40% other Sicilian grape varieties.

Etna grape harvest
Sicilian Wine

Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG

Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG is a dry red Italian wine from a region around the commune of Vittoria in the province of Ragusa. The only wine with DOCG status in Sicily, it is made from a blend of two Sicilian grape varieties, Nero d’Avola (locally known as Calabrese) representing between 50% and 70%, and Frappato (30% to 70%). Lighter Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG pairs beautifully with classic Sicilian fish dishes and pasta while the more structured bottles are excellent with stews, black truffle risotto, roast beef or gnocchi.

Sicilian Wine
Sicilian wine

Marsala DOC

The most famous of all Sicilian wines is Marsala. Invented and commercialised by the English Merchant, John Woodhouse in the 18th century, he tasted the local wine when he was forced off course and into the port of Marsala by a storm. Recognising the potential of the wine for export, he arranged to ship large quantities back to England. Brandy was added to fortify the wine for the journey and Marsala wine as we know it, was born.

Marsala wine received DOC status in 1969. The fortified wine is known for being used in cooking but can also be successfully paired with food, served as an aperitif or with dessert. Thanks to varying ageing times and processing methods there are several different kinds of Marsala; Marsala Oro and Ambra (both white wines) or Rubino (red wine)

Marsala and Marsala Oro are produced using the grapes Grillo, Catarratto, Inzolia and Damaschino whereas Marsala Rubino is produced with a combination of Perricone, Calabrese and Nerello Mascalese. Depending on the sugar content the wine will be distinguished as sweet, dry or semi-dry.

Sicilian wine

The team at Grape Escapes were just wonderful. We tasted some amazing wines and enjoyed every minute of our vacation!

Sheryl and Jon - Texas, USA