20 - 23 September 2022
Sicily, Italy’s sweet wine paradise
The town of Lilibea, in western Sicily, is hosting the judging session for sweet and fortified wines, offering an opportunity to turn the spotlight on Marsala wines. Fifty or so international judges will get the chance to visit vineyards and taste these iconic wines from 20 to 23 September 2022.
Since Antiquity, Sicily has been famed for the quality of its wines, which have always enjoyed an excellent reputation. Stretching over nearly 26,000 km2, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. It is also Italy’s biggest wine region.
Nearly 70% of the island’s varietal range is white, out of some 180,000 hectares of vines. Sicily produces 8 million hectolitres of wine, including 400,000 hl which come from the 20,000 hectares that are home to its 9 DOCs.
Sicily’s sweet wines
Sicily has earned a reputation as an unrivalled location for producing sweet wines. Here, the island’s colourful hues are matched only by the intensity and delicious flavours of its wines. Some of them are made from its native varieties which are still the finest examples of the traditions that set the island apart from the rest of the world. Even within a small radius, the island’s vineyard sites vary and specific microclimates create a suitable habitat for local and international grape varieties to develop a hallmark Sicilian identity and reach the pinnacle of expression. The distinctive influences on Sicily’s vineyards are its powerful sunshine coupled with its sea breezes which offer its grapes the coolness they need to produce fine wines.
As per centuries-old winegrowing traditions in western Sicily, the grape varieties permitted by law for producing Marsala are only those which, since Phoenician times, have formed the genetic heritage of local viticulture – Grillo, Catarratto, Inzolia and Damschino for the white grape varieties used to make Marsala Oro and Ambra. The typical DOC Marsala wine region covers most of the province of Trapani. The location is extraordinary, basking in 250 days of sunshine a year, where the sea and the winds pamper the vines day-in-day-out. Vineyards stretch from the coastline, where the wines are savoury and intense due to diurnal shift and the influence of the sea breeze, as far as the low-lying hills located around 300 metres above sea level, back from the sea, where the wines are fresher and more mineral.
Passito di Pantelleria
Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the island of Pantelleria extends over 83 km2 and is located just 45km from the coast of Tunisia. Down through the centuries, it has been dominated by different populations who have left a lasting mark on it. People have successfully harnessed the impenetrable and hostile natural surroundings to ensure their survival over time, becoming practitioners of extreme farming and transforming a tangle of volcanic rocks into one of the most harmonious agricultural landscapes across the entire Mediterranean region. Moscato di Alessandria, better known as Zibibbo, is the king of grapes on the island of Pantelleria. Here, in extreme conditions, it is grown using the ‘vite ad alberello’ system – or as head-trained bush vines – recognised as Unesco World Heritage. The vines are protected in hollows dug out of the soil and produce Moscato and Passito.
Syracuse and Noto
Considered as one of Italy’s oldest wines, Syracuse stems from the Moscato bianco, a sweet, elegant wine in its Moscato and Passito iterations. Since ancient times, the Syracuse region has developed due to its wealth of rivers and its fertile soils. The promontory and surrounding area are limestone-based with a temperate and hot climate and sea influence. As it descends towards Noto, warm currents at the confluence between the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas create the ideal site for growing Moscato. Like all of Sicily’s top wine regions, this is the ‘sun belt’, offering the perfect location for growing sweet and fortified wines. Noto and Syracuse wines are cousins and Noto produces perfumed, aromatic dessert wines as Moscato and Passito. The towns of Syracuse and Noto and all of the Val di Noto are home to a host of Unesco World Heritage sites which, over time, has made them the preferred destination of cultured travellers with a sense of refinement.
Beneath the Salina sunshine, Malvasia delle Lipari births this extraordinary wine made from Malvasia and Corinto Nero grapes. The Aeolian Islands have been listed as Unesco World Heritage since 2000. They were colonised in around 580 B.C. by the Greeks who believed that they were the home of the god of wind, Aeolus, and decided to dedicate them in his honour. The geographical location, influence of the sea, exposure to the sun along with the strong winds, and of course, the hand of mankind, have made this a unique terroir. Malvasia delle Lipari is vinted in different styles – passito, passito liquoroso and dry white. Here, the sea plays a pivotal role, promoting environmentally-friendly farming and viticulture. The 160 hectares under vine are planted from sea level right up to over 400 metres in altitude.