CHICAGO, April 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Just when Americans thought they had wine all figured out, a new frontier in wines, hand-tailored on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, has come onto the scene in a big way. In America, while certain wine varieties have become as mainstream as macaroni in the last 15 years, Sicily has been working hard revitalizing indigenous grapes and crafting more exciting, sophisticated and vibrant red and white wines. The result is a rich mosaic of wines ripe for discovery and ready to surprise America's ever-evolving adventurous palate.
The United States recently surpassed France and Italy in consumption of wine, yet only a small percentage of Americans (9%) enjoy Sicilian wine regularly. "When people think of Italian wine, they think of the classic Tuscan countryside," said Antonio Rallo, president of Sicilia DOC, a consortium of wine producers developed to protect, promote and enhance the denomination of origin Sicilia DOC. "As an island, Sicily is abundant in natural resources, a diversity of landscapes and microclimates that yield a great variety of red and white wines both elegant and complex, approachable and bright."
In addition to contrasting natural resources – such as the sunbaked shores along the island's Southeastern tip and the cool, rocky slopes of the Mount Etna region – Sicily's wine renaissance is in large part due to a medley of passionate personalities. This includes many multi-generational families who are committed to sustainability through preservation of Sicily's land and to rediscovering the nearly 50 native grapes that are unique to Sicily.
Joining Sicily's long-standing wine making families are a crop of fresh faces – young wine makers in their mid-twenties and thirties, many of them women, who are learning from the past and innovating for the future. They are confidently trying new techniques, like mixing and matching non-traditional terroirs and grapes to create lighter, yet more character-driven, wines, and refining blending techniques using indigenous grapes, such as the island's mainstay Grillo and Nero D'Avola grapes, with more well-known international grapes, like Chardonnay and Syrah.
"There is an infectious energy in the wines and in the attitudes of the wine community right now that is getting us noticed by some American wine and food experts, chefs and sommeliers," added Rallo. "Now is the time for Americans to explore wines from Sicily – and the wines from the 2014 vintage are a perfect example of why Sicily is a stand out in terms of consistency, quality and value."
The position of Sicily, at the center of the Mediterranean, always presents a favorable climate condition for growing grapes. And in 2014 in particular, even while the rest of Italy suffered from drought and tough growing conditions, it was the perfect year for growing healthy and perfectly ripe grapes resulting in one of the best vintages in recent years.
The island's diversity also is represented in its culinary influences, including Greek, Roman, Arab, Spanish and French, that are all part of Sicilian culture and cuisine. Native island ingredients, including swordfish and tuna, eggplant and squash, ricotta cheese, almonds and pistachios, extra virgin olive oil, and citrus fruits, are all classic Mediterranean ingredients that Americans are enjoying more and more frequently in their own homes.
With the endless possibilities of pairing grape varieties and terroirs with diverse and delicious culinary offerings, Sicilian wine is at home on any table. Whether casually grilling out with Grillo, or pairing an elegant supper of herbed lamb chops and Nero D'Avola, now is the time to begin exploring the mosaic of wines from Sicily:
- Sicily's Gift of Grillo – If you like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, you'll enjoy single varietal Grillo or Grillo blended with a Chardonnay grape or the local Catarratto variety. Grillo is versatile and easy to drink with characteristics that range from fresher and more savory to more structured and mature. Vineyards across the island benefit from marine breezes and mineral-rich soil along the coast lends a complex, fresh mineral note alongside tropical and fruity aromas that get along well with small plates, such as an herbed goat cheese salad or ricotta, lemon-rind-topped bruschetta. Grillo also stands on its own as a happy hour pour, pairs nicely alongside a variety of cheeses and olives and the native arancini (stuffed and fried rice balls filled with meat and/or cheese), as well as sushi or cold Thai noodle salads. Further inland along the hills of Sicily where there is a wider temperature range, the wines carry notes of flowers and Mediterranean fruit that enhance the wines elegance and would accompany any grilled or baked fish or vegetarian pasta.
Nero D'Avola, the King of Grapes – Sicily's most widely planted red grape variety, Nero D'Avola surprises with its fruit, freshness and drinkability. Often compared to a Syrah, which is a grape that is often used as its pairing partner, Nero D'Avola hosts a range of flavors from raspberry and sour cherry to blackberry, plum and blackcurrant, spice herb and even licorice and cocoa depending on the soil and terrain and length and style of aging. With a stylistic range from elegant and fresh to ripe and jammy, Nero D'Avola is always a great match for grilled meats, such as lamb or steak, salumi and mushroom dishes. A Nero D'Avola blended with Frappato, a native grape from the Ragusa, Siracusa, Vittoria or Etna regions, tastes similar to an elegant Pinot Noir – a lighter taste with hints of strawberry and cherry with elegant and silky tannins that would complement a Thanksgiving turkey or enhance any special occasion meal.
Look on the label to discover Sicilia DOC wines at your local wine shop and on restaurant menus. To explore Sicily and Sicilian wines either on your mobile or desktop, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and learn about the island's diverse grapes, meet its passionate wine makers, hear about local tasting events, and find delicious wine and food pairings.
About DOC Sicilia
Consorzio di Tutela Vini DOC "Sicilia," recognized by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies, aims to strengthen the identity of Sicilian wines, while improving their quality, image and market position. The DOC Sicilia designation introduced in November 2011 includes lower maximum yields per hectare compared with the former IGT regulations. This way, winegrowers aim is quality improvement of their wines in spite of production yields. One of the primary objectives of the consortium is to take the name and brand of the DOC throughout Italy and all over the world. For further information, please visit Wines of Sicily.
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SOURCE DOC Sicilia