Wines of the Sicily region
The viticulture in Sicily dates back to the second millennium BC, but the merit of having introduced new vines and improved cultivation techniques is due to the Greeks. The Sicilian wine history is full of important events such as the barbarian invasions that caused the decline of the cultivation of the vine, which recovered later during the Arab domination, not already to produce wine (prohibited by the Koran), but of raisins.
The fortune of Sicilian wines came by chance in 1773, when an English merchant, John Woodhouse, sent 60 "pippe" (drums with a capacity of 400 liters) of Marsala wine from Liverpool to Sicily, to which he had added 9 liters of alcohol in each barrel transforming it into a fortified wine. The success was enormous and the expeditions continued for years.
Another paradoxical stroke of luck occurred in 1870 when phylloxera devastated the French vineyards, and the loss of that imposing production caused a strong demand for Sicilian wine. In a short time, the vineyard area of Sicily tripled from about 100,000 to 322,000 hectares. But then, just 10 years later, phylloxora also appeared in Sicily, causing considerable damage to the vineyards.
But it is since 1970 that an important oenological turning point began in Sicily: the desire to obtain highly alcoholic and full-bodied wines was set aside in favor of new, fresher, more elegant and fragrant wines, often obtained from the ancient vines and indigenous vines Catarratto, Grillo , Carricante, Frappato, Nerello and, of course, the Calabrese grape variety, better known by the name of Nero d'Avola. These were joined by international vines such as Chardonnay, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sirah, so it can be said that Sicily in recent years has authoritatively won the quality bet.
Climate, Territory and Cultivation systems of the vine
Sicily, called the island of the sun, is the largest Italian region bordered by over 1,100 km. of coasts, as well as the islands of Pantelleria, Ustica and the Aeolian and Egadi archipelagos that are part of it. The territory consists mainly of hills (about two / thirds), mountains and, to a small extent, the plains.
The weather conditions are characterized by two types of climate: in the hilly areas and along the coast there is a Mediterranean climate with mild, slightly rainy winters and hot, sometimes sultry, and windy summers, while the mountains and inland areas are affected by a continental climate, cold and rigid, especially in the mountain hills of Etna and Madonie, which determines strong daily and seasonal temperature variations. The climatic diversity, however, brings benefits to the ripening process of the grapes, from whose vinification wines of different qualities are obtained: from fresh and fragrant white wines to more structured and elegant red wines.
With regard to the soil, Sicily is characterized by the Etna Volcano, whose eruptions determine the formation of Lava Lands whose properties are in perfect balance with the vegetable prerogatives of the Carricante and Nerelli Mascalese and Cappuccio vines. In the area to the west, different characteristics of the territory determine the formation of Calcareous soils, suitable for the cultivation of the Nero d'Avola grape variety, and Clay soils, which tend to give the wines a greater intensity of color, and, finally, Volcanic tuffs give a sugary charge and a refined fragrance to the Malvasia delle Lipari wines, the Moscati di Noto and Siracusa and the Passiti di Pantelleria.
The most common vine growing systems in Sicily are the traditional Alberello and the Guyot and Spurred Cordon forms.