Between the gorgeous beaches, tiny unexplored towns, untouched nature, and even volcanoes for hiking, there are countless ways to plan a holiday to Sicily. However, one of the most delicious ways to discover the island is through its most famous wines.
Red, white, or fortified – Sicilian wines are as diverse as the areas in which they are found. From Palermo, head west to make a counter clockwise trip around the island to sample the very best of its exceptional vino (between stops to see Greek ruins and breaks to dip into the sapphire blue sea, of course). A great glass of wine is never too far from your Sicily hotel!
Raise a glass to the wine lover’s guide to Sicily:
What it is: fortified wine, sometimes used for cooking
Where to drink it in Sicily: Along the western coast
Similar to Port and Sherry, Marsala is a fortified wine that takes its name from the Sicilian town where it was first produced. The seaside city of Marsala has gleaming Baroque architecture that acts as a pretty backdrop to enjoy the dessert wine, but the strong drink can be found along the western coast. Depending on the quality, the wine can be used both for drinking or for cooking – chicken marsala, anyone? Savory dishes made with dry Marsala are more common outside of Italy, but the wine is a key ingredient in many sweets served in Sicily such as zabaglione.
What it is: full-bodied red wine
Where to drink it in Sicily: South eastern Sicily
Sicily’s most well-known red wine has grown in fame for good reason – the hearty Nero d’Avola has an unforgettable bold and sometimes peppery flavor. The grape is native to Sicily, meaning that there is no shortage of places to sample the wine, but it is best on the south-east tip of island, close to the town of Avola where it originated. Raise a ruby red, fruity glass while taking a break from exploring the rocky shores of Sicily’s Syracuse province.
What it is: Usually a fruity white wine, though red varieties and dessert wines exist
Where to drink it in Sicily: in the northeastern region, such as near Messina, or on Lipari
Golden Malvasia Bianca is just the drink that long, hot summer days call for. The white wine grows best in dry climates, and Sicily has plenty of appropriate weather for the vine to flourish. Malvasia can be found in many winemaking regions outside of Italy, but the Sicilian version tends to be delicate and sweet. The most unique is found on the island of Lipari, between Sicily and Calabria. Here the grapes are first dried to concentrate the sugars in order to produce a delicious dessert wine.
What it is: A blend of reds grown in volcanic soil
Where to drink it in Sicily: On the slopes of Mount Etna
While exploring northeastern Sicily, diverge from the area’s sweet whites to try the unique group of red wines often called simply “Etna Rosso” – reds from Mount Etna. The active volcano is a popular wine producing region, with most of the vines growing about 1,000 m (3,300 feet) in elevation. Influenced by the high altitudes and volcanic soil, the wines created are completely distinct from the bottles made in other parts of Sicily. Plan to stay awhile to really take in the range of styles that can be considered Etna Rosso. Since the only requirement is that the wine contain a minimum of 80% of the Nerello Mascalese grape, the rest is up to the winemaker. Some are all natural, others are served young, but the best way to find them all is to climb aboard the wine train (yes, it is a real thing!) and take a tasting tour up the side of the active volcano.