The origins and history of viticulture in Sicily
The first traces of viticulture in Sicily date back to the Bronze Age, with a tradition deriving from the culture of the Mycenaeans. A phase of great progress is experienced between the eighth and third centuries BC, during the Greeks. It is not by chance that the so-called cult of Dionysus comes from Sicily.
Sicilian wines continue to be very successful during the Roman era, up to the VI century AD After a period of stagnation corresponding to the Arab domination, the practice entered a phase of decline between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries under the invasion of the Normans and the Swabians.
The sixteenth century is a fundamental century for viticulture in Sicily, as it allows the birth of new wine productions in Bagheria, Lipari and Carini. But the real change takes place during the “landing of the Thousand” in Marsala. Vincenzo Florio is a fundamental figure in this rebirth, as he manages to seize the opportunity coming from English wines and to adapt it to Sicilian traditions. The Marsala wine is created, which becomes an authentic symbol of the adventures of Garibaldi, in turn his historical taster. Another period of stagnation continues until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the government favors the creation of new vines and allows the viticulture in Sicily to live a moment of maximum flowering.
The tradition of wine in Sicily
As already mentioned above, one of the main symbols of Sicily is represented by wine, an essential element during meals. The vine and the harvest have always been considered as a synonym of pacts and alliances with other peoples, even if some believed that they coincided with a critical moment in the agricultural working cycle. It is said that the juice of the wine, following its fermentation, was regenerated and found a new life, thanks to which those who drank it could have passed to another otherworldly dimension. The wine tradition is also highlighted by some Sicilian historical customs. For example, in a center near Messina, until the sixties, the passage of grapes from grapevines to the wine vats was accompanied by a group of grape pickers and bagpipers, as well as typical dances and songs. Also noteworthy are the festivals of San Vito a Condrò, San Calogero or Campo Franco. In this way, the link between viticulture and Sicily continues to be indissoluble.
The most important vineyards
What are the most important vineyards in Sicily? First of all, we must make a distinction between those with red berries and white grapes. Here are some of the best known:
- Nero d’Avola plays a leading role in viticulture in Sicily. It is currently the most famous and widespread red and comes from the southeastern part of the region.
- Nerello Mascanese is a red cultivated especially in the Etna area and has different similarities to Nebbiolo, originally from Piedmont.
- Frappato is a red that is served at a temperature of 12 ° C and comes from the south-eastern part of the region.
- Zibibbo is one of the most famous Sicilian white vineyards in the world. It is used to make the Passito di Pantelleria and it comes from the homonymous island of the extreme south of Italy.
- Catarratto has in turn a large group of enthusiasts. It is a white wine among the oldest and most characteristic of all.
- Grillo is actually a blend between the Zibibbo and the Catarratto. One of its strengths is represented by a favorable relationship between quality and price and has regained its glory over the last few years, after some decades of decline.
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