Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea, separated from the Italian peninsula by the narrow Strait of Messina. The Madonie mountain range (2,000 m/6,600 ft) stretches along the Northern coast, while Mount Etna – the largest active volcano in Europe – dominates the Eastern coast and casts ashes all over the island with its frequent eruptions. Inland Sicily is mostly occupied by hills and intensively cultivated wherever possible.
Most of the surrounding smaller islands, such as the Aeolians, with Vulcano and Stromboli, are all of volcanic origin, some still very active. Off the Southern coast, the underwater volcano of Ferdinandea, which last erupted in 1831, is located between the coast of Agrigento and the island of Pantelleria (another dormant volcano).
The region enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and dry, hot, even scorching summers, but the mountains get heavy snowfalls during winter and Mount Etna is usually snow-capped from October till May.
Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, literature, architecture and cusine. It is also home to many famous ancient sites. The earliest human activity on the island, according to archeological findings, dates back
to 12,000 B.C. The original inhabitants mainly were the Sicani and the Sicels, joined around 750 B.C. by the Greeks, who founded a large number of settlements and colonies along the coasts, so much so that the area became part of Magna Grecia.
The discovery of organic residues in some Copper Age jars at prehistoric sites around Sciacca and Caltagirone has led archaeologists to believe that the production of wine in Sicily is actually one of the oldest in the world. Today, Sicily is the third largest wine-producing region in Italy after Veneto and Emilia Romagna.
The best-known local grape is Nero d'Avola and the best wines made from this variety come from Noto, near Avola. Other important native varieties are Nerello Mascalese, used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine; Frappato which, along with Nero d'Avola, is a component in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG; the Moscato di Pantelleria wine is 100% made from a sweet white grape called Zibibbo. Other local, quite ancient varieties are Nerello Cappuccio, Grecanico Dorato, Albanello, Malvasia di Lipari, Catarratto, Nocera, Corinto Nero, Damaschino, Pericone, Grillo, Carricante, Inzolia, Moscato di Noto. Some high quality wines are also produced using non-native varieties, such as Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.
One of the most famous Sicilian wines is Marsala, a fortified wine similar to Port and Madeira, which received the DOC satus in 1969, along with the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status. It is made using the Grillo, Inzolia, Catarratto and Damaschino white grapes, among others. Florio and Pellegrino are the oldest and best Marsala producers in the region.
Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, especially the bitter ones made of herbs, bark, fruit and flowers following very ancient recepies, with an alcohol content between 16% and 40%, like the famous Amaro Averna, commonly consumed in Italy as digestives
Typical Red Wines
Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Nero d'Avola, Corvo di Salaparuta Rosso, Etna Rosso, Mamertino Rosso. Monreale Rosso.
Typical White Wines
Corvo di Salaparuta Bianco, Marsala, Alcamo, Contea di Sclafani Bianco, Malvasia delle Lipari, Etna Bianco, Mamertino Bianco, Placido Rizzotto IGT, Monreale Bianco, Pantelleria Moscato.
Typical Rosé Wines
Etna Rosato, Nerello Mascalese, Rosé di Rosa Milazzo, Monreale Rosato.