The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a land rich in history thanks to the endless list of conquerors who have occupied it over the centuries. There is a wealth of fascinating places to visit (there are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites), including the capital Palermo, full of Baroque palaces and Arab-Norman architecture, and Greek temples at Agrigento and Syracusa. In the East the 2nd largest city, Catania, sits in the shadow of still active Mount Etna with its soaring peaks and barren landscape.
There are 23 DOCs and DOCGs, but these account for only 5% of the island’s production as most is bulk wine or Marsala. In the north-east close to Catania is Etna with its unique wines from the volcanic-rich soils. In the southeast corner Sicily’s only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria made from a blend of grapes. In the south-east, where the majority of wine production is, Marsala, famous for its fortified wines which are made like sherry. In this region there is also a large amount of non-fortified wine, bottled as Sicily DOC or ICT Terrae Siciliana.
The main indigenous white grapes are Grillo, Catarrato and Inzolia (all used for Marsala), Grecanico, Carricante, and Zibbibo (Muscat of Alexandria). The main black grapes are Nero D’Avola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Local grapes are often blended with French grapes (a lot of syrah is grown), particularly for the wines labelled as IGT.
The climate is largely Mediterranean, but, as a large island, there are differences between regions depending on altitude and proximity to the sea. Sicily can be divided into 3 main areas – east, central and west. The east, which includes Etna, is the coolest and greenest part with vineyards up to 1100 metres); the south-east corner (the province of Siracusa) is mostly hot and windy; the centre and west are more temperate. The soil is mainly mineral-rich and volcanic, found all over the island, though there are pockets of sandy and rocky soils.