Palermo is the administrative center of Sicily, whose provinces include Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Ragusa, Siracusa and Trapani. The largest of Italy’s 20 regions (25,710 square kilometers), Sicily ranks 4th in population (5,098,000).
In Sicily the only other DOC wine made in significant quantity is the pale white, bone dry Bianco d’Alcamo, which is now part of the broader Alcamo appellation. Moscato di Pantelleria, from the remote isle off the coast of Tunisia, is among the richest and most esteemed of Italian sweet wines in the Naturale and Passito Extra versions. Malvasia delle Lipari, from the volcanic Aeolian isles, is a dessert wine as exquisite as it is rare. The dry white and red wines of Etna, whose vines adorn the lower slopes of the volcano, can show class, as can the pale red but potent Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Production of the other traditional DOCs, the dry, red Faro and the sweet Moscatos of Noto and Siracusa, has been minimal in recent times. But the volume of premium wine is certain to increase with the additions to the DOC list of Contessa Entellina, Eloro, Menfi, Sciacca, Sambuca di Sicilia, Contea di Sclafani and Santa Margherita Belice.
Wines from several admired producers of Sicily have not been qualified as DOC, though most are now covered by the IGT of Sicilia or other appellations. Plans have been advanced to introduce a regionwide Sicilia DOC.
About 75 percent of Sicily’s wine is produced by cooperatives, though a growing number of privately owned estates has put the emphasis on premium quality. Methods of vine training in the sunny, temperate hills have been changed to reduce yields of grapes for wines of real character and individuality. Recently, prominent wine houses from northern and central Italy have invested in vineyards on the island.
Such international varieties as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Pinots show real promise in Sicily. But some of the island’s finest wines come from native varieties, notably Nero d’Avola (or Calabrese), Nerello Mascalese and Perricone (or Pignatello) and the reds and Inzolia and Grecanico among the whites. Sicily has taken the lead in winemaking in the modern south as producers seem increasingly determined to live up to the promise that was already admired millennia ago by the Greeks and Romans.