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The World of Sicilian Wine

The World of Sicilian Wine

Bill Nesto
Frances Di Savino
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The World of Sicilian Wine
    Book Description:

    The World of Sicilian Wineprovides wine lovers with a comprehensive understanding of Sicilian wine, from its ancient roots to its modern evolution. Offering a guide and map to exploring Sicily, Bill Nesto, an expert in Italian wine, and Frances Di Savino, a student of Italian culture, deliver a substantive appreciation of a vibrant wine region that is one of Europe's most historic areas and a place where many cultures intersect.From the earliest Greek and Phoenician settlers who colonized the island in the eighth century B.C., the culture of wine has flourished in Sicily. A parade of foreign rulers was similarly drawn to Sicily's fertile land, sun-filled climate, and strategic position in the Mediterranean. The modern Sicilian quality wine industry was reborn in the 1980s and 1990s with the arrival of wines made with established international varieties and state-of-the-art enology. Sicily is only now rediscovering the quality of its indigenous grape varieties, such as Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Grillo, and distinctive terroirs such as the slopes of Mount Etna.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95507-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Bill Nesto, MW and Frances Di Savino
    (pp. 1-20)

    The culture of wine in Sicily is both ancient and modern. There is evidence of vine training and wine production from the earliest settlements of the Phoenicians on Sicily’s west coast and the Greeks on Sicily’s east coast from the eighth century B.C. In the long parade of foreign powers and people who have invaded and settled Sicily, it was the Greeks who brought an established culture of wine to this island. For the Greek settlers from mainland Greece and its islands, Sicily was the fertile and wild frontier on the western edge of their Mediterranean world. The gods and...

  7. 2 THE LOST OPPORTUNITY: 1775 to 1950
    (pp. 21-33)

    In 1774 a Florentine named Domenico Sestini came to Sicily to study the island’s indigenous vine varieties, wine regions, and wines. A little less than forty years later he delivered a series of lectures titled “Recollections of Sicilian Wines” (Memorie sui vini siciliani) to the prestigious Florentine society of agronomists and scientists known as the Georgofili Academy. Sestini had gone to Catania at the age of twenty-four as the guest of Ignazio Paternò. In addition to studying the written works of the historian Tomaso Fazello and the botanists Francisco Cupani and Paolo Boccone in Paternò’s vast library, Sestini spent three...

    (pp. 34-63)

    The 1957 Treaty of Rome ensured that goods could move freely across the borders of European Union member states.¹ Following this, the Stresa Conference of 1958 outlined agricultural policy for members of the EU, which supported the principle that they would act as a bloc to solve problems associated with the agroeconomic difficulties of individual members. The conference guaranteed farmers in the EU that prices for their products would not fall below a predetermined level common to all member states. These prices would ensure farmers a secure livelihood. The system was essentially one of price supports.

    Before the creation of...

    (pp. 64-71)

    About ten years ago, Giacomo Ansaldi bought and restored the nineteenth-century Baglio dei Florio, on a rocky plain that overlooks the vineyards of the contradas Birgi and Spagnola, the Stagnone saltworks and nature reserve, the island of Mozia, the Egadi Islands, Erice, and Marsala.Bagliois an Italian word for a rectangular building enclosing a central courtyard. The Florio family had built this structure amid their vineyards to house equipment, employees, and, during the height of the harvest, the family itself. To avoid trademark infringement with today’s Florio Marsala wine company, also no longer owned by the namesake family, Ansaldi...

    (pp. 72-80)

    Sicily is a triangular island at the toe of the boot-shaped Italy. The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, it is about one-third of the size of Ireland and roughly the same size as Vermont. Only very detailed maps of the area include the small islands that surround it. It is bounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea to its north, the Ionian Sea to its east, and the Mediterranean Sea to its south and west. Due to its size, insularity, and geographic diversity, Sicily has been called the little continent in the center of the Mediterranean. It is the most populous...

    (pp. 81-111)

    Most consumers learn about emerging wine categories first by vine variety and second by country or region of origin. In a varietal wine, the grapes of one variety predominate: they must be at least 75 percent of the blend in the United States and 85 percent in the European Union. Legal minimums vary among countries and wine categories. Some varieties impart distinct characteristics and become an important factor in determining wine style. Once the legal minimum for varietal labeling has been satisfied, producers may add other varieties into a varietal wine. Varieties are transported around the world until people select,...

    (pp. 112-124)

    Sicilian winegrowers demonstrate a strong and sensitive attachment to the soil and to their vines. Before the 1990s they had difficulty keeping pace with improvements in enology and the commercialization of wine. Their viticultural practices, however, have evolved alongside techniques practiced for centuries in the traditional wine-producing countries of Europe. Since the end of the nineteenth century, Sicilian viticulture has adapted to the infestation of phylloxera from the early 1880s to 1920, the modernization of the bulk wine industry from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s, and the development of a quality sold-by-the-bottle wine industry from the late 1980s to...

    (pp. 125-141)

    During his travels through Sicily in the late eighteenth century, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed that the “oil and the wine are also good, but would be even better if prepared with greater care.”¹ Sicilian winegrowers throughout history have maintained a deep connection to viticulture that has kept them in step with existing viticultural technologies. Their understanding of enology, however, lacked the sophistication found in mainland Italy and certainly in France and Germany. This deficiency is consistent with Sicily’s historic inability to transform its high-quality raw materials into finished products. Only after the mid-1990s did Sicilian winemaking practices reach parity...

    (pp. 142-149)

    Cool, dry north winds howled. They swirled around us. We looked up at a vast blue sky punctuated by white clouds racing overhead. An undulating golden carpet of wheat spread out to the mountains that defined the edges of the valley below. From the top of a ridge we looked eastward and down on Feudo Montoni, a white square cut into an island of green. Vines in a sea of wheat. Clumps of trees sprung up here and there like tufts of grass.

    Fabio Sireci’s voice rang out above the winds. “The trees near the vineyards are eucalyptus. Giacomo Tachis...

    (pp. 150-155)

    Because wine is an agricultural product, its identity is bound to place. There is, however, no simple and logical way to discuss Sicilian wine from a regional perspective.

    Sicily is divided into nine provinces (province,the plural ofprovincia): Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Siracusa, and Trapani. These are also the names of their respective capital cities. When listening to Sicilians, one has to infer from the context of the discussion whether they mean the province or the city. Municipalities or townships (comuni,the plural ofcomune) make up each province. A township has the same name as...

  16. 11 VAL DI MAZARA
    (pp. 156-201)

    Val di Mazara is the largest of the three historic regions of Sicily. It includes Palermo, the capital city of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the twelfth century and of modern-day Sicily. Val di Mazara extends from the intensively cultivated vineyards of western Sicily to the island’s interior, home to little more than vast tracts of high plains and steep hills that are blanketed by wheat fields and punctuated with isolated vineyards. In contrast with Val di Noto and Val Demone to its east, Val di Mazara historically was more influenced by the cultures of the Phoenicians and the...

  17. 12 VAL DI NOTO
    (pp. 202-229)

    Val di Noto encompasses the southeastern corner of Sicily. Historically it was associated with more intensive agriculture than was Val di Mazara. Today Val di Noto –particularly the city of Ragusa—is considered the most entrepreneurial area in Sicily. In the wake of a massive earthquake in 1693 that devastated southeastern Sicily, the ancient towns of Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Scicli, Caltagirone, and Palazzolo Acreide embarked on an ambitious rebuilding campaign. They are now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrated as the culmination of baroque architecture in Europe. The ancient city of Syracuse on the Ionian Sea, founded by...

  18. 13 VAL DEMONE
    (pp. 230-261)

    Val Demone comprises the northeastern corner of Sicily. It includes the island’s second-and third-largest cities, Catania and Messina; Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna; and the archipelago of seven volcanic islands known as the Aeolian Islands. In Roman mythology a giant convulsion that tore Sicily from the Italian mainland created the Strait of Messina, which separates Messina from Calabria. From the plains of Catania to the slopes of Etna and the northern coast west of Milazzo, Val Demone has been celebrated for its fertility throughout history. Of the Tre Valli, Val Demone was influenced by the island’s Greek and Byzantine...

    (pp. 262-270)

    We met Salvo Foti on our first morning on Mount Etna. It was June 2008 and we had come to Sicily to discover the world of Sicilian wine. Salvo was the first winegrower we met on this trip. Crouching in the Benanti vineyard on Monte Serra, he scooped up two handfuls of the loose topsoil. It looked like black rock candy granules. He poured it in our cupped hands so we could feel its surprising lightness. Salvo explained that this ripiddu, as it is called in Sicilian, dusts the vineyard when the prevailing northwest winds carry the volcano’s emissions high...

    (pp. 271-274)

    To the parade of enlightened travelers who ventured to Sicily from the classical age through the early twentieth century, the island represented “that miraculous centre upon which so many radii of world history converge.”¹ These explorers, writers, and artists set out to discover this ancient “land of gods and heroes,” in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville.² Their journals provide detailed accounts of Sicily’s history, topography, geology, climate, culture, agriculture, food, and wine. In the early seventeenth century the Frenchman Pierre d’Avity declared that Sicily “perhaps surpasses, in fertility, any island in the Mediterranean, yielding every kind of fruit” and...

  21. NOTES
    (pp. 275-282)
    (pp. 283-288)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 289-307)