Friday, February 01, 2013

Sicilian Wines from a Tea-totaler

I can’t believe that, after 9 months of blogging about Sicily, I haven’t mentioned wine even once! Now I know what you are saying.  "Diane!" you say.  "That film was about wines from Bascilicata!"  Yes, that is true.  I did include a film about Bascilicata wines, but this wonderful little film captures the essence of family in Italian wines.  I have to thank Caspar Diederick, the very talented, young Dutch film-maker for permission to post this lovely film.  Please check out his YouTube channel.  I also have to apologize for the layout of the film on the page.  I haven't yet figured out how to shrink it down to fit a little better.

I must, at this point, make a disclaimer.  I don't actually drink wine.  In fact, I don't really drink anything at all except water, coffee, and the occasional club soda.  And yes, I can hear you now.  "Diane!  How can you, an non-drinker, write about Sicilian wine???"  Well, everything that I know about Sicilian wine, or really any wine, I learned from my very Sicilian husband, Nick.  He is my expert, and I bow to his knowledge!  So, under the tutelage of Nick, here is my treatise on Sicilian wine.

Every meal must have wine!

Wine is the lifeblood that runs through Sicilian veins.  When Nick was a boy, his father made wine.  I don’t mean he went to the local “wine and beer boutique”, picked out a box or two, paid for it then came back in a month or so to bottle it.  Nope, he made wine in the basement of their house.  Their yard wasn’t big enough to grow grapevines so they would buy boxes and boxes of wine grapes when they came in from California.  And for Nick, he probably had his first glass of (watered down) wine when he was five or so.

Later, when Nick moved to Vancouver Island, he bought the house we currently live in which has about 2/3 of an acre.  Perfect grape growing country!  (It actually is, Vancouver Island is covered with small, excellent wineries).  Nick and his uncle would pick the grapes, add a couple of boxes from California, and then make their own wine.  Nick has told me that his uncle’s wine would knock you flat after two glasses.

Wine making is a family affair all over Sicily.  Most families have home-made wine tucked away in dark cupboards to be pulled out at every family function.  These wines are often strong, red wines.  The best part of these wines is the family feeling and love that they engender.

But, apart from home-made wines, there are excellent wines to be found in Sicily.  In fact, Sicily has more wineries than any other region in Italy and competes with only Puglia to be the largest wine-producing region in Italy!  If you are travelling through Sicily on about November 11th, Saint Martin’s day, you will see signs of festa del vino, or festival of the wine.  It is said, in Sicily, Il giorno di San Martino il mosto diventa vino or "On Saint Martin's Day the grape juice becomes wine".

Sicily is most famous, of course, for it’s dessert wines, particularly it’s Marsala.  In 1773, Englishman John Woodhouse came across a wonderful sweet wine while travelling in Marsala.  Wanting to take this wine back to England, he added extra alcohol in order to have it survive the long journey.  This is how the Marsala wine was born.  The wine was such a hit that Woodhouse returned to Marsala and continued to produce this lovely dessert wine.

The label is hard to read, but this is a Marsala

Another Sicilian wine worth trying is the Caruso and Minini Cusora Syrah-Merlot blend.  It is an award winning wine having been awarded with the Great Gold Medal, for the second year in a row in Brussels, and with Silver at the Syrah du Monde.

Another Syrah is the Fuedo Arancio.  It has an aroma of wild berry with an undertone of chocolate and licorice.

Most non-Italians, when they think of Sicilian wine, picture rich reds, but Sicily produces good white wines as well.  The MezzoMondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay is a wine with a fruity aroma and a slight tang of spices on the tongue.

I have to say, for a non drinker, I certainly learned a lot writing this post.  Thank you Nick!  While researching this post isn't going to make me start drinking wine, I will enjoy watching my husband enjoy his much more.  

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