Sicily is an island of distinction. Not only is it the largest island in the Mediterranean sea, it’s also home to some of the most beloved and carefully made wines in the world.
While some of the best-known Italian vintages come in the form of a Chianti Classico or a Brunello di Montalcino, Sicily is home to several of its own memorable varieties.
If you’ve ever wanted to try a Nero d’Avola or a Moscato di Pantelleria, we’re here to help bridge the gap between your new favorite drinks. You may even find a new favorite to fall in love with!
Sicilian wines are an art form in themselves. Below we’ll explore a little of Sicily’s unique grape varieties, today’s leading wineries, and exemplary regional wines you should try.
A Quick History of Sicily
Sicily is easy to spot on a map: just check out the toe of the famed ‘boot’ of Italy!
Sicily is practically overflowing with historical and artistic intrigue, remaining a mainstay for travelers year after year. Greeks, Phonecians, and Romans are just a few of the famed societies that have risen and fallen throughout this region, which is nothing to say of Sicily’s architectural and gastronomical achievements.
A key contributor to Sicily’s incredible wine is its proximity to several active volcanoes. Volcanic soil is rich in nutrients such as sodium, sulfur, and potassium, all of which contribute to heartier grapes.
What is the Most Popular Wine in Sicily?
Dry wines are the go-to in Sicily, though you can find quite a few other styles, too. The wine grapes you should start with on your Sicilian wine journey are its indigenous grapes: Nero d’Avola and Grillo.
Nero d’Avola is the most commonly produced red wine grape in this region, while Grillo is a popular white wine grape. We’ll take a look at their unique properties more below!
Wine Grapes of Sicily
A solid introduction to Sicily wine is to look at their local varietals. Sicily is home to three carefully protected indigenous grapes with completely unique characters.
Are you a fan of Shiraz or Malbec? You’ll fall in love with Nero d’Avola, which has been fondly compared to some of today’s red wine staples. It also has several qualities all its own.
Nero d’Avola is a dark-skinned red wine grape famed for its brambly, berry aroma and dry mouthfeel. Expect a medley of flavors ranging from dark cherry, ripe plum, and peppery aftertastes.
Its high tannin count makes it a great wine to store for a few years before opening, though there’s no harm in drinking it fresh!
If you’re more curious about Italian white wines, Grillo is another indigenous Sicilian grape variety you should look into. Sometimes compared to the popular Italian variety Pinot Grigio, Grillo is an approachable wine that’s great for hot weather.
With fewer tannins and more balanced acidity, Grillo is an easy wine to sip and relax with. This grape’s flavor profile leans toward sweet-yet-tangy fruits such as ripe grapefruits and peaches.
A notable characteristic of Grillo is a faint herbal or mineral aftertaste, both of which are more pronounced with barrel-aged varieties.
This gentle white wine grape is often a late bloomer but tends to produce very high volumes of grapes. This contradiction isn’t usually found in the flavors themselves, remaining a light and airy variety that is often blended.
Mount Etna is the most common place to grow this grape thanks to the higher altitudes. Expect floral aromas and a range of flavor notes ranging from white peach to lemon zest.
Wineries of Sicily
There are around four hundred and fifty wineries operating in Sicily today, all with their own compelling histories and beautiful portfolios. For now, let’s take a look at three to get you started.
A household name in the Sicilian wine world is Gambino Vivi, hailing all the way back to the late 1970s.
Vittorio Raciti and Maria Gambino first established this winery to create the most memorable wine portfolio they could, especially with the aid of Mount Etna.
Gambino Vivi makes it clear up front how much this volcano has contributed to their craft, citing both the complex Mediterranean climate and rich soil as powerful foundations.
Today the Gambino family sells both wine and olive oil to everyday visitors as well as famed musicians like Rihanna. Many native Sicilian grapes are on display here, some of which come from vines that are decades old.
Caruso & Minini
Hearkening back four generations, this family-owned winery is a staple of Western Sicily. Through hard work and dedication, Caruso & Minini sell their vintages to over thirty countries around the world.
Caruso & Minini stores and ages their wine in a cellar dating back to 1904, which should say something about their commitment to Sicilian winemaking techniques!
Wine fans who want a large portfolio to choose from will be in good hands here. You have native red and white grapes from Sicily, right alongside other Italian grape varieties.
Consider checking out their sparkling and olive oil while you’re at it: you won’t be disappointed.
Tenuta Di Castellaro
Tenuta Di Castellaro is a winery in love with the simple things in life. While they offer conventional wine tastings and tours, they also offer sunset viewings…because life really is in the details.
This elegantly simple philosophy is represented in their wine portfolio, offering a handful of single-origins and blends for you to enjoy.
Alongside native Italian grapes, they provide French grapes with their own unique spin. If you’re more interested in buying organic wine, rest easy knowing they have several delectable bottles for you to choose from.
Best Wines of Sicily, Italy
Which wines should you try first in Sicily? While any wine is a great start, we’re particularly keen on introducing you to indigenous wine grapes in the region.
These varieties have been carefully protected and cultivated for hundreds of years, all for the benefit of bringing you an unforgettable glass.
Gambino Vini Duvanera
Let’s start off the list with a prime example of the native Sicilian grape Nero d’Avola. This bottle comes with a solid nine months of aging in oak to bring out its more subtle flavor notes.
Fans of Merlot and Syrah will flock to this bottle’s plummy flavors and floral aroma. Expect a subtle hint of baking spices such as vanilla and cloves, all of which would pair well with light white cheese.
Gambino Vini Tifeo Etna Rosato
If you’re feeling more toward a light and airy rosato (that’s Italian for rosé), Gambino Vivi has another showstopper of a bottle. While rosés tend to lean toward strawberry or peach notes, this bottle has more of a tropical fruit kick.
Full-bodied and amazingly crisp, this bottle will be a great companion on a warm evening. Consider pairing it with grilled chicken or a rice-based dish.
Caruso & Minini Nero D’avola Riserva Cutaja
Another tasty way to learn more about Nero D’Avola is to try a Riserva version. This bottle has been aged since 2017, pushing its flavor notes into a more multifaceted territory.
Both savory and fruity, this bottle yields flavor notes of cherry and blackberry alongside hints of nutmeg and cocoa.
Lasagna or steak-based dishes will pair beautifully here, though a simple charcuterie will also bring out its more subtle character.
Tenuta Di Castellaro Ypsilon
This robust red blend combines three Italian wine grapes: Alicante, Corinto, and Nero d’Avola. The result is a bright, refreshing drink that will suit both hearty dinners and casual outings alike.
Balancing ripe red fruit with a faintly spiced character, this wine would be brilliant with chicken, salmon, or a mushroom-based burger.
InVino Pinot Grigio
A Sicilian wine journey should include both indigenous grapes and grapes from other Italian regions. After all, Sicilian winemakers have their own ways of doing things!
This Pinot Grigio has a high mineral character nestled between its familiar flavor notes of white peach, lemon, and lime. Consider chilling this wine for fifteen minutes before pairing it with a dish of alfredo pasta or salmon.
Cortese Organic Nostru Carricante Terre Siciliane IGP 2020
A lesser-known indigenous grape to Sicily is Carricante, a pale white wine beloved for its delicate aroma and flavor notes. Not only is this wine very characteristic of the grape’s style, but it’s also vegan!
This zesty white wine will hearken back to memories of biting into a crunchy, ripe fruit. Try pairing this wine with a barbecue, salad, or cheese platter.
Casale Burgio Grillo
Lastly, a Grillo should be a pit stop on your way to Sicilian wine fluency. Similar to Carricante, this wine skews toward a light, refreshing palate.
With flavors of stone fruit and a mineral finish, consider saving this wine for your next seafood extravaganza. Vegetarians can pair this bottle with pasta salad or soft cheeses.
Why You Should Try Sicily Wines
Whether you want to expand your wine knowledge or just want something memorable to go with your next dinner, Sicily wines are a peak place to start. Just about everything you could want in a wine venture is located in this region.
Compelling history dating back several thousand years? Check. Several indigenous red and white wine grapes to explore?
Check again. Sicily wines enjoy the benefits of proximity to active volcanos, offering the grapes both rich soil and higher altitudes to grow to their fullest potential.
Sicilian wineries are often run by families whose roots date back several generations, all the better to protect the craft and the land that supports it.
Sicily is just one of many fantastic regions you can explore in the Old World. If you want to learn more about Italian origins, check out our piece on Umbria & Tuscany.