An Intro to Five of Sicily’s Native Grapes and Its Unique Cuisine Inspires Island Dreams #ItalianFWT

Five of Sicily’s Native Grapes

An active volcanic island off the toe of the boot of Italy, Sicily is surrounded by the sea. 

These two factor into the origin of Sicily’s native grapes, but it’s the combination of island’s location just over a mile from Italy and less than 100 miles from Africa that make the cuisine unique.

The dramatic seaside and volcanic landscape, exquisite cuisine and ancient culture, and the affordable wines from indigenous grapes I’ve been tasting and researching has me dreaming of an island exploration complete with a climb up Mt Etna’s volcanic terroir!

“Typically, Wines of Sicily are priced between $12-$25 on average,” shares a Wines of Sicily spokesperson. “Wines of Sicily has over 400 producers and each one works with their own set of importers.”  

2 white wines of Sicily with traditional dishes

Wines

  • 2021 Baglio di Pianetto Catarratto, Sicilia DOC 

  • 2020 Donnafugata “SurSur” Sicilia DOC

  • 2020 Planeta Cerasuelo di Vittoria Sicilia DOCG 

  •  2015 Feudo Solaria “Foglio Cinquanta” Sicilia DOC 

  • 2018 Fazio “Castelmedia” Sicilia IGT

3 red wines of Sicily with traditional dishes

Menu

Other Sicilian pasta dishes Sue considered making:

2021 Baglio di Pianetto Catarratto, Sicilia DOC

2021 Baglio di Pianetto Catarratto, Sicilia DOC  

ABV 12.5%
SRP: $17
Grapes: Organic Lucido aka Catarratto
Importer: OPICI Wines and Spirits
sample for my review

As a boy, the young Count Paolo Marzotto, dreamed of discovering how wine was made, and after traveling the world ins search of the perfect terrain, in 1997, he founded Baglio di Pianetto. Now run by his children and grandchildren, the winery provides guests with experiences in their 160 hectares of vineyards located on two wine estates with contrasting elevation and terroir: Pianetto is 650 meters above sea level in mountainous terrain, and Baroni is 50 meters above sea level near the southeast coast. They grow Sicilian native varietals including Catarratto, Frappato, Insolia, Grillo, Nero D’Avola, plus a French-inspired blend Ramione. Imported by Opici Wines & Spirits, named “Importer of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast,  they began to be available in the US in July 2022.

Dedicated to sustainable practices and limited environmental impact, they says the “winery is certified sustainable in compliance with EU legislation which includes practices like water conservation, using renewable energy, and reduced carbon emissions. In addition to that, the winery became certified organic in 2016. Through these minimal intervention techniques, each wine expresses the pure nature of the terroirs and the specific qualities of each variety.”

“We want to cherish and strengthen our image,” said Francesco Tiralongo, CEO of Baglio di Pianetto. “We are committed to making organically-produced terroir wines which showcase both innovation and elegance.”

According to Bella Tamburri

  • Lucido aka Catarrato is a white wine with hints of yellow and green. White flowers and citrus pair with melon and herbal flavors. Lucido goes with almost any seafood and vegetables and works on its own as a wine by the glass. 

Learn more about the 2021 Baglio di Pianetto Catarratto Sicilia IGT.

Appearance: Very clear, very pale platinum

Aroma: Herbal, grassy, meadow flowers, fennel flowers, chamomile,  

Palate: Green, tart, finish has some flint, lemon drop, smooth-slick mouthfeel, lemon lime, lime on the finish, bright acidity, pleasant textural mouthfeel. 

Pairing: The sweet citrus, the toasted walnut and the fresh fennel were absolutely perfect with this layer of flavor salad, the nuts and the olives add a richness that contrast nicely with the acidity of the wine. The meal is a perfect match for this wine. The citrus rind in the biscotti was so fantastic with the wine. This tart citrus wine works very nicely with the anise almond biscotti. While the torrone is a bit too sweet for the wine, the citrus in the wine and the dessert work well together on the finish. 

2020 Donnafugata “SurSur” Sicilia DOC

2020 Donnafugata “SurSur” Sicilia DOC

ABV: 13% 
SRP: $20
Grapes: Grillo 
Importer: Folio Fine Wine Partners
sample for my review

According to Bella Tamburri of Wines of Sicily: 

  • Grillo is a soft colored yellow with citrus blossom and fruity aromas. Its flavor profile has notes of white peach and grapefruit combined with aromatic herbs and is soft on the palate. A bottle of Grillo can be perfect for a night filled with charcuterie boards and hors d’oeuvres, or poultry dishes. 
  • José Rallo represent the fifth generation of a Sicilian family with 160 years of experience in wine. After a successful career as an international management consultant, Rallo joined the family business, Donnafugata. Today, along with her brother Antonio, Donnafugata has 5 wineries and over 400 hectacres of vineyards between Marsala, Contessa Entellina, Pantelleria, Etna and Vittoria, all territories with extraordinary potential. Rallo is not only the managing director but she leads the brand’s marketing and public relations team while overseeing the management control and quality team.

Learn more about Donnafugata ‘SurSur’ Grillo Sicilia IGT.

Appearance:  Very pale lemon, more of a very pale gold

Aroma: Very grassy, meadow flowers, chamomile, very expressive, sweet white flowers like gardenia or tuber rose, 

Palate: Nicely fruit forward without being sweet, nice roundness, white florals, Meyer lemon, 

Pairing: Sue loved the toasted walnut and citrus with this wine. The sweet citrus and fresh fennel highlighted the bright notes in the wine. The panel was also a nice pairing with the wine, loving the fresh grated lemon rind and salty pecorino. The rich arancini is refreshed nicely by this bright acidic wine. The wine brightens the appetizers nicely. Anna preferred this wine with the citrus salad. The salinity in the cheese and salt on the panelle made the wines pop. It brings out lovely bright fruit in the wine. The panel has the fat and the starch and the salt works so well with both of these white wines.

There is a bit of a sharpness between the wine and the cookie, but they work quite nicely. It is the anise in the cookie that makes it all work together. The torrone is a bit too sweet to handle the wine. 

2020 Planeta Cerasuelo di Vittoria Sicilia DOCG

2020 Planeta Cerasuelo di Vittoria Sicilia DOCG 

ABV: 12.5%
SRP:  $22
Grapes: 60% Nero d’ Avola and 40% Frappato
Importer: Taub Family Selections
sample for my review

According to Bella TamburriWines of Sicily:

  • Frappato an easy-going wine (and often referred to as Pinot Noir’s “cool cousin”) varietal that brings so much flavor and can change its depth when chilled. This ruby colored varietal is complimented by flavors of spices and red cherry with a lingering freshness that is present and balanced. When preparing to open a bottle of Frappato, make sure to chill the bottle before taking a sip. Doing so provides extra depth and it’s how Sicilians like to enjoy it in Sicily as well. Frappato’s light and fruity flavor notes pair beautifully with fish, and dishes like cioppino, aqua pazza or a baked white fish are perfect. 

  • Born in Hungary, Patricia Toth is highly educated in food, wine, and spirits where her passion ultimately developed in the wine industry. She has partnered with Planeta wine producer and assisted in the expansion and production throughout Sicily. Toth captures the Sicilian experience as she facilitates the wine production while dominating the wine industry as a female winemaker. 

Learn more about the 2020 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG.

Appearance:  Such a pretty color, ruby, fuchsia, raspberry, ruby raspberry, very translucent, cherry fruit, 

Aroma: Forest floor, earthy, cherry cordial, potpourri, 

Palate: Very cherry tart, tannins with mouthwatering acidity, green grass like oxcallis, fruity and tart, long cherry finish. Deep fresh cherry with the cherry cordial as well. Very fun wine. 

Pairing:The wine is wonderful with our arancini, the salt and the texture of the arancini. The richness is beautiful with the wine. The pine nuts also highlight the wine nicely. One of the things I really likes about this wine and the arancini is that it really brought out the baking spices in the wine. The wine was a perfect transition between the courses. 

2015 Feudo Solaria “Foglio Cinquanta” Sicilia DOC

2015 Feudo Solaria “Foglio Cinquanta” Sicilia DOC 

ABV: 13.0%
SRP: $17
Grapes: Nero d’ Avola
Importer: Always Goods LLC, Newberry Park CA 
sample for my review

According to Bella Tamburri, Wines of Sicily: 

  • Nero d’Avola has an aroma of red floral notes accompanied by its flavor of sweet spices and cocoa allow for versatile pairings that go beyond the main course. The best bottle to pair with the entire night, from start to finish, and from savory to sweet, Nero d’Avola is the perfect choice to have at the tabe. Nero d’Avola pairs beautifully with hearty pasta and meat dishes like a pot roast, tenderloins, pasta and more. 

Learn more about 2015 Feudo Solaria ‘Foglio Cinquanta’ Rosso Sicilia IGT.

Appearance:  Medium density, ruby with a mauve rim. 

Aroma: Luzardo cherries, cocoa powder, violet, iris, lovely musk

Palate: Luscious cherry, bright acidity, menthol, sage, to me it was more sage than menthol, cooking herbs, marjarmon, oregano, 

Pairing: Beautiful with the appetizers, perfect with the meal. I liked this fun pasta, so fresh and bright to go with this fresh bright wine. It loves the fried crunchy texture and flavor of the food bringing  out bright fruit in the wine. The wine feeds so nicely with the herbal anise in the biscotti, such a nice pairing. The torrone was a bit too sweet for the wine but the orange in the torrone worked really nicely with the finish of the wine. 

2018 Fazio “Castelmedia” Sicilia IGT

2018 Fazio “Castelmedia” Sicilia IGT

ABV: 13%
SRP: $19
Grapes: Nerello Mascalese
Importer: VOS Selections
sample for my review

  • Nerello Mascalese will add details ASAP

According to Bella Tamburri of Wines of Sicily: 

  • Lily Fazio has been a part of the Women in Wine Associate for over ten years and shared terms as presidency. Fazio also is a part of the board of Directors at Assovini Sicilia and served as Vice President for three terms. She focuses her attention on the production of high-quality grapes to produce high quality wines, working on the traditional Sicilian grape varieties as Nero d’Avola, Grillo, Catarratto, Moscato, but also on the international grape varieties, because she thinks that they are heritage of all territories and can be expressed in different ways according to the pedoclimatic characteristic.

Learn more about the Fazio ‘Castelmedio’ Nerello Mascalese Terre Siciliane IGT.

Appearance:  Medium + density, ruby, fushia rim, 

Aroma: Honeycomb, violets, carnation, very floral very sweet, OMG Sue said about this nose, we both loved it. Plum, such an inviting nose, 

Palate: Santa Rosa plum, carnation, clean, slate, dry cherry finish, 

Pairing: The bright fruit in the wine is so nice with this bright fruit pasta, the rich tomato base is so perfect with the wine. Both have this rich umami, This wine did not go as well with the panel as the other wines did. There is a bit of kick in the pasta sauce that stands up to the heat bringing out the fruit in the wine matching nicely to the pasta. The umami in the eggplant and tomato are a perfect harmony with the wine. The wine also carried through quite nicely with Sue’s biscotti. These lightly sweet anise seed cookies enhance the wine making it a perfect transition from the savory umami pasta dish to the after dinner dessert. I found it to really like the orange rind in the cookie best of all. 

When Wines of Sicily asked if I wanted samples, I replied yes, but I’m most interested in wines with a strong sustainability story, and ideally, where a woman has a key role in the operation. They sent me several of the wines above, along with information about the grapes and the women. As you look into women made and sustainable wines from Sicily consider these  shared with me from Wines of Sicily:

  • Gaetana Iacono of Valle dell’Acate
    • Gaetana comes from a family that has been making wines for six generations and stepped in to preserve the family tradition. Due to the dominated male winemakers in the industry, she had to overcome many obstacles as a woman but used her vision and intelligence to preserver. Iacono believes an advantage woman have instilled is the characteristic of being resilient. 
  • Giovanna Caruso of Caruso & Minini
    • Giovanna was born into a family of wine growers and fell in love in preparing for harvest each year she believes she was destined to be a part of the wine producing world. Caruso is highly educated in business and has a background and degree in law too. Thanks to the growth in opportunities, she became associated at the Donne del Vino (Women of Wine) and a part of the Board of Directors at Assovini Sicilia.  

We’ve written before about Sicilian wines with food pairings; here’s a few that we recommend you check out: 

 

Discover more about Sicily from members of the Italian Food Wine Travel group of wine writers: 

 

12 thoughts on “An Intro to Five of Sicily’s Native Grapes and Its Unique Cuisine Inspires Island Dreams #ItalianFWT

  1. Chamomile! Why do I always forget chamomile when I have my nose in a wine glass? I had a blend of Grillo and Catarratto with an aroma I could not put my finger on. It was chamomile. (I really want an opportunity just to sit and taste with you!)
    Sue’s menu, as always, sounds delicious, and I am hankerin’ for some of that fennel and citrus salad!

    Liked by 1 person

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