In recent times Sicily has moved on from its reputation as Italy's main producer of high-volume fortified wines and can now lay claim to some of the most exciting wines coming out of the country. From boisterous reds, delicate rosés, crisp whites, and a plethora of award-winning dessert wines, Essteele previews some of the most renowned producers in the region.
From Avola in the southeast of the island, comes Sicily's signature red, the Nero d'Avola, a masterful, luscious red grape with lashings of juicy berry flavours. With bold tannins, the full-bodied wine is produced by some of the most reputable vineyards in Italy, including Abbazia Santa Anastasia. The top-rated estate covers 400 hectares in the territory of Castelbuono, in the Madonie Park, on hilly terrain at an altitude of between 200 and 500 meters above sea level and produces over fifteen different wines, all of which are either certified organic or biodynamic. Essteele recommends staying onsite in the superbly renovated ancient Benedictine abbey whilst indulging in their highly prized Sensinverso Biodynamic Nero d'Avola.
The island of Sicily is home to the Tasca d'Almerita family of estates: Regaleali, Capofaro, and Whitaker. The Regaleali estate is at the heart of the family's wine production. Their Le Rose di Regaleali Rosé wine comes from grapes grown on the flower-filled Regaleali estate in Sicily, and the roses are said to give this particular wine its lovely fragrance. Essteele recommends pairing it with traditional pizza, topped with anchovies and capers.
Sicily’s dry, sunny clime is tailor-made for dessert wine production. One of the most famous producers is the internationally acclaimed Donnafugata, established in 1989 when Giacomo Rallo and his wife Gabriella, from an old Marsala-producing family, planted their first vines. From the early days of production, their award-winning dessert wine, Donnafugata Ben Ryé has been regaled as among the world’s great sweet wines. Made with an ancient process known as passito, grapes are dried in the sun and open air until they achieve a shrivelled quality. Ben Rye means “born of the wind,” and the high wind, for which the island is named, adds another dimension of flavour to the grapes and the quaffable end product.