Getting lost among the flavours of Sicily is very easy. Here is a guide to help you find your way around the various DOC ( Controlled Designation of Origin) areas of western Sicily. Are you ready? Let’s taste!
Whether you are coming from the north-east or from the south or perhaps you are on the Tyrrhenian coast of the Madonie, the first stop on this wine-tasting tour is the DOC area “Contea di Sclafani” or “Valledolmo-Contea di Sclafani”. The territory is located in the municipalities of Sclafani Bagni and Valledolmo, among the provinces of Palermo, Caltanissetta and Agrigento.
Here the native Sicilian vines are widely diffused: the Contea di Sclafani or Valledolmo Contea di Sclafani white wine are produced from the almost pure Catarratto (at least 95%) ; the Contea di Sclafani or Valledolmo-Contea di Sclafani red wine comes from Nero d’Avola (from 0 to 100%) and Perricone (from 0 to 100%). In between glasses of wine, don’t miss the opportunity to discover the natural beauty of the area and to take a hot thermal bath.
Do you feel full of energy? Because the next stops on the tour will be a real labyrinth of flavours. Prepare your taste buds: the western edge of Sicily has 11 DOC zones ( 12 including Pantelleria).
Let’s then continue our journey starting from the DOC Monreale area, which includes also parts of Piana degli Albanesi, Camporeale, San Giuseppe Jato, San Cipirello, Santa Cristina Gela, Corleone and Roccamena. Here you can try a wide range of wines, all of them have the certified denomination of ‘Monreale’, (the denomination is only granted if at least 85% of the wine is made from the corresponding grape variety): the whites Inzolia, Catarratto, Grillo, Chardonnay, Pinot bianco, and the reds Cabernet sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, Perricone, Syrah, Merlot.
The DOC Monreale area borders south with the Contessa Entellina DOC area and west with the Alcamo DOC area (part of the territories of Alcamo, Calatafimi, Castellammare del Golfo, Gibellina, Balestrate, Comporeale, Monreale, Partinico, San Cipirello and San Giuseppe Jato). In both areas you can taste wines created from the grape varieties already mentioned for “Monreale”, but you can also find wines made from unsual vines for Sicily. For example you can sip the white Contessa Entellina Fiano and Contessa Entellina Viognier (both 100% pure) and the red Contessa Entellina Pinot Noir (minimum 85% of the corresponding grape variety) on the one hand; while drinking the white “Alcamo Grecanico”, Alcamo Muller Thurgau on the other.
Further south we come across a real maze of DOC areas: Salaparuta, Santa Margherita di Belice, Sambuca di Sicilia, Menfi and Sciacca. You will be spoilt for choice: in addition to the grape varieties already mentioned for the other areas, here you definitely must taste the white Santa Margherita di Belice, a blend of Ansonica (30-50%), Grecanico and shiny white Catarratto (alone or combined, 50-70%) with its greenish reflections and lively flavour. You can also sip the “Sambuca di Sicilia passito”, made from Ansonica grapes (minimum 50%); or, from the Sciacca DOC area, the red Sciacca Sangiovese, which has a rich and balanced flavour. You can try the white Sciacca Rayana Reserve (Catarratto lucido and Inzolia, minimum 80%, combined or separate).
The white Damaschino and the red Cabernet Fanc, Alicante Bouchet, Alicante, Petit Verdot and Aglianico (all of them also available in Rosé) they all come from the Menfi DOC area. For those who love bubbles, DOC Menfi will surprise you with the “spumante” varieties of Chardonnay, Grecanico, Chenin Blanc and White Muscat.
Do you feel a bit tipsy? Take a break and enjoy the wonders that this area has to offer: from the beaches along the coast, to the Temple of Selinunte to the Cretto di Burri.
Going west we find the Delia Nivolelli (south) and Erice (north) DOC areas. You should try, among others, the Delia Nivolelli Perricone or Pignatello, a full-flavoured, tannic red, made from a grape variety grown in Western Sicily (minimum 85%); or the Erice Vendemmia Tardiva (late harvest) Zibibibbo (Alessandria Muscat or Zibibbo minimum 95%) and the Erice Sweet Spumante ( Muscat of Alessandria or Zibibbo minimum 95%).
We finally reach the extreme point to the west, where we can honour the Marsala: this wine has a centuries-old history and is considered the prince of Italy’s fortified wines. This land is the first recognised DOC area in the whole Sicily and, except from the municipalities of Pantelleria, Favignana and Alcamo, it includes the territory of the province of Trapani. Marsala is a fortified wine and is produced from both white grapes (classified as ‘gold‘ and ‘amber‘ if made from Grillo and/or Catarratto and/or Ansonica grapes) and red grapes (‘ruby‘, with Perricone and/or Nero d’Avola grapes). It is certainly a perfect wine to conclude a meal, but if you are sipping a Marsala Vergine (i.e. aged for at least five years) you can also try it as an aperitif, together with blue cheeses. Enjoy the magnificent sunset over the Stagnone with amber on your palate.
We end our journey by heading towards the DOC Pantelleria area. Although its Passito is famous, don’t miss the chance to taste its Muscat (in a fortified or sparkling version). All the certified wines from this area are exclusively obtained from pure Zibibbo grapes. After a real tour de force in the world of western Sicilian wines, you can finally enjoy the calm of the island, surrounded by the sea.
If you fancy discovering new tastes, the wines of the north-east and those of the south are waiting for you.