Sicily has a long history of wine culture and for many years was Europe's most productive wine growing region. Located smack in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, there have been myriad influences of people, food, and culture over millennia that have created a place diverse from the rest of Italy.
Mt. Etna, the volcano in eastern Sicily, is the attempted but not best kept secret of Italy. In recent decades, when Etna wines were reborn thanks to the help of intrepid winemakers and trained locals, including famed oenologist Salvo Foti, Sicily became an international source for delicious wine and continues to focus on quality and sustainability. Sicilian wines are now more focused on high quality by working the best vineyard sites, and opting for lower yields. Both locals and international winemakers have turned the focus inward to promote indigenous grapes, ancient vineyards, and organic production to let the wines share their unique identity.
The wines from all sides of the mountain have become increasingly popular, compared to Burgundy for their finesse. On the south side of the volcano, Carricante is the dominant white grape, which we feature in the Nicosia Etna Bianco. On the north side, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio are the dominant reds, often blended together.
The vineyards are often a patchwork of terraces, including 100+ year old vines, interspersed with new planting. The work is done almost entirely by hand because the vineyards and soils are no match for machination. However, strong technical skills are required to recreate historic training techniques, something that Salvo Foti teachs his predecessors and clients.
One of our featured winemakers, Fede Graziani took advantage of this beautiful wine growing region to produce wines that are simple yet elegant, with a balance of fruit and unique minerality that can only come from the volcanic soils of Etna. With the help of Foti, Graziani has taken his renowned sommelier knowledge to place his Etna Rossa wines on somet of the worlds best wine lists. Including ours!
The volcano is not the only subject here. Wines from the north and south, west, and outer islands display unique qualities that have come and gone in terms of consumer demand. Julius Caeser was once a fan of Mamertino Rosso, a wine based on the Nocera grape, the far north in Messina. We feature the wines of Antica Tindari, including their Imperium, which is stunningly captures capture of rustic authenticity and ads a modern twist.
In the far south, Nero D'Avola and Frappato are the stars, and making up the blends of Siciliy's only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittorio. We feature Poggia di Bortolone's blend of the two grapes to highlight the playful, juicier style that contrasts nicely with the obscure, sometimes challenging wines of Mount Etna.
These Sicilian wines are reflective of the wines we strive to carry at Wines in Tandem, small family vineyards with diverse influences, focused on sustainably growing indigenous grapes, making quality wines, and then sharing them with the world. We hope you have a chance to come and try them with us!