â€˜Sicily is a continent when it comes to wineâ€™ - Alessio Planeta
The above quote, by the owner of one of the most established Sicilian wineries (Planeta), eloquently emphasizes the range and variety of wines found in Sicily thanks to the variety of micro-climates that provide viniculturists with endless opportunities to create wonderful wines. This is perfectly illustrated when you consider that Pachino, one of the new emerging regions for vine cultivation, which is right on the South tip of Sicily is further south than Tunis in North Africa. It provides a dry and arid climate which stands in stark contrast with the climate further inland in the hills around Noto and is differently still to the climate in Agrigento or the Trapani area.
Long gone the days when Sicilian wine was used to bulk up the wines of the north of Italy or France, the region, with 17.5% of Italian vineyards has woken up to the benefits of quality wine and investments made more than a decade ago (in both experimental vineyards and human expertise) are now bearing fruits.
There are 18 DOCs in all of which few are well known internationally. Recently, Sicily has also laid claim to a DOCG. The Cerasuolo di Vittoria, produced in and around the town of Vittoria, is Sicily first DOCG. It is a blend of Frappato grape - providing fruit cherry-like aromas- and Nero dâ€™Avola - the trademark Sicilian grape which produces wine that is well structured and ages well. Variations of Cerasuolo are obtained by varying the percentage of Nero dâ€™Avola and Frappato, although typical values are respectively 60% and 40%.
Beyond this DOCG and other well known DOCs like the Marsala Doc, Etna DOC and the Moscato di Pantelleria DOC, the most exciting developments are in the attention to wines such as the white Grillo, the young and fruity Frappato, or the imposing red Nero dâ€™Avola. These are IGTs and some of the best provide a true indication of where Sicily can go with wines.
DOC, DOCG, IGT
In a competitive wine market labels are sometimes very useful for understanding the quality and provenance of a wine. In Italy there are three commonly used labels. DOCs (denominazione di origine controllata â€“ controlled denomination of origin) are used for products of high quality from specific regions, while DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata e guarantita) are reserved for those DOCs which have displayed exceptionally high quality over a number of years (at least five) and have undergone more stringent testing. The most relaxed label is IGT (Indicazione Geographical Tipica) simply indicating the geographic provenance of the wine.