Wine: Sicilian connection

In the heart of Sicily, the island landscape is filled with contrasts: bright colours, dark shadows, poor soils, rich earth, tiny villages set against rolling hills and mountainous outcrops

Sicily's bright and dark sides are similarly reflected in its wines and the contrast between their age-old notoriety and new-found fame. Its shameful legacy is based on the vast quantities of plonk it has consistently churned out. But now, thanks to the efforts of a handful of pioneers, Sicily is gaining a reputation for its high-quality and value-for-money wines.

And why not? Italy's largest island is blessed with the natural advantages of a dry, sunny climate, cooling Mediterranean breezes and vineyards well-suited to wine grapes. It took action-men such as Diego Planeta and Count Giuseppe Tasca d'Almerita to overcome a legacy of inertia to match first native, then international, grape varieties to the true potential of the land. Regaleali's innovative Giuseppe Tasca created Rosso del Conte with the native grape nero d'avola. Diego Planeta's vision helped turn the giant co-operative Settesoli into a thriving modern business. He also introduced premium French varieties "to show the world we could compete on the international stage and to stop local people saying 'my grillo [the Marsala grape] is the best in the world'".

Twenty thousand people in three western-Sicilian towns are involved in Settesoli. Sicily's largest company, with 6,000 hectares under vine, this massive co-op covers 5 per cent of the island's vineyards, an area that matches that of Chile's wine-producing regions.

The upshot is that this go-ahead co-operative today produces an astonishing array of drinkable reds and whites, not least the refreshing dry white, Tesco's Finest 2006 Fiano, £4,99, a plum and blackberryish 2005 Tesco's Finest Nero d'Avola, £5.99, and the bright, cherryish 2006 Casa Mia Sangiovese, £4.99, Sainsbury's.

From just two names after the war – Regaleali and Corvo – Sicily now numbers 400 producers, among them Diego Planeta's own estate planted as part of the same process of modernisation. Planeta today produces an excellent-value 2006 La Segreta Bianco, around £7.99, Philglas & Swiggot (020-7924 4494), Swig (020-8995 7060), Roberson (020-7371 2121) – a peachy, dry white blend based on grecanico, and a refreshing, strawberryish blend of nero d'avola and frappato, the 2006 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, DOCG, around £11.99, Carluccio's, Noel Young Wines (01223 844744), selected Waitrose stores. Count Tasca's Regaleali, too, makes a fine range of wines, among them the juicy, mineral dry 2005 Nozze d'Oro, around £12.29, Hailsham Cellars (01323 441212), Whole Foods Market, Kensington.

Blends of merlot and cabernet sauvignon have brought extra character and depth to Sicily's native nero d'avola, which is by far Sicily's most widely planted red grape variety. With its slight Italianate, bitter twist of freshness, the quality of the cassis and black cherry-rich 2004 Abbazia Santa Anastasia Montenero, £15.95, Lea & Sandeman, testifies to a superior Sicilian new-wave blend, as does Regaleali's minty, stylish 2004 Cygnus, around £12.29, Flagship Wines (01727 841968), Whole Foods Market. The latter's flagship 2004 Rosso del Conte, around £21.99, Harrods, Hailsham Cellars (01323 441212), Whole Foods Market, is the standard bearer for nero d'avola, showing how a small addition of the Bordeaux grapes can bring extra depth and finesse.

If Sicily has a struggle on its hands to convince a sceptical outside world that it can transcend its infamous past, it's wines like these that will do the trick.

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power