A Tale of Two Sicilies (part two)


A Catarratto vine, which produces the white grapes grown in the heart of the Island

A Catarratto vine, which produces the white grapes grown in the heart of the Island

In the second instalment of his tour of Sicily’s history, geography and wine, David Berry Green takes us through the patchwork of geology that makes up this fascinating island.

Topographically and climatically, Sicily is far from homogeneous; instead diverse terroirs favour specific, indigenous grapes and unique wines. The Mediterranean west and south-western corner, part of the Val di Mazara, is gently undulating on sedimentary calcareous clay, exposed to the hot Sirocco winds from North Africa. This is white grape country, notably Zibibbo (Moscato) and Grillo (Catarrato/Zibibbo cross) – the grapes behind fortified Marsala, but now increasingly dry whites.

Further east and north, heading into the heart of the island, the landscape becomes hillier, the soils (and eyes) darker, part of an impenetrable interior, characterised by the Madonie and Erean mountain ranges. It’s more continental here, shaped by the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north, with sandstone, limestone and red clay home to the likes of the white Catarratto and black Perricone grapes. At the north-eastern tip of Sicily, the Val di Demonte zone, the skyline is dominated by soaring peaks belonging to the igneous Peloritani and Nebrodi ranges; the black Nerello grape just gains a foothold along the coastal marne soils overlooking Calabria and the Straits of Messina.

The eastern coastline is dominated by the still active Monte Etna, whose lava flows are the perfect nursery for the black Nerello Mascalese (Etna Rosso) and white Carricante grapes. Finally, the Val di Noto zone in the island’s south-eastern corner, lapped by the Ionian Sea, is home to the limestone plateaux of the Hyblaean mountains, whose stone both built Syracuse and underpins the black grapes of Nero d’Avola and Frappato (Cerasuolo di Vittoria).

For David’s first Sicily blog entry, click here; in tomorrow’s entry, David will be disembarking in Marsala to focus on the winemaking. For more on the wines featured in our current Sicily offer, go to bbr.com