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The best wineries in Sicily.

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Sicily and wine

Well-loved as a cruising ground for yachts when combined with the volcanic Aeolian Islands nearby, Sicily is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes and fascinating historical sites in the Mediterranean. With reliable sunshine, moderate rainfall and the right soil, it also boasts the perfect climate for Sicilian wine producers, an industry which has gone from strength to strength in the last decade and which is becoming increasingly well known among wine connoisseurs, and for good reason.

 

Styles are incredibly diverse, flavours brilliantly bold, and the island is bursting with different grape varieties. Whether incorporated into the heart of your itinerary, or as a book end for a few days either end of your cruise, discover the thriving wine estates and their luscious vineyards with a wine-lovers itinerary.

Burgess Yachts

A guide to the best wineries in Sicily

Planeta, Tasca d’Almerita, Frank Cornelissen, Barone di Villagrande, COS… familiar names that have helped put Sicilian wines on the map. But you could be forgiven for not knowing that Sicily is such a strong wine producer. Ideally positioned in the southern Mediterranean, Sicily’s coastal climate is well-suited to the production of wine grapes.

The island has been a significant centre for viniculture for more than 2,500 years, but in latter years became a victim of its own success, with high yields and mass production for supermarkets reducing the overall quality of the wine produced for a number of years. It is slowly reversing its reputation however, and today it is one of the Mediterranean’s most interesting wine regions.

Sicily is ideally suited to wine production
Sicily is ideally suited to wine production

Vineyards in the Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve
Vineyards in the Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve

Different characters

Sustainability is top of the wine agenda in Sicily and producers champion organic wines in particular. But it’s also how vineyard growers and winemakers ensure wines express a sense of place that makes the following wineries stand out.

 

Many are located by the coast with stunning views over the sparkling Mediterranean, while others are situated high up in the island’s hinterland atop volcanic hills.

 

Designed for wine

The island is actually so varied in topography and soil type that it has many indigenous grape varieties and distinct growing regions that are as diverse as they are beautiful, offering very different experiences for intrepid oenophiles. Burgess takes a whistle-stop tour of the regions to whet your appetite while cruising Sicily’s coastline.

Regionalisation with Planeta properties

Combine stunning scenery with gastronomic excellence when you step ashore to visit any one of the family owned Planeta group of vineyards. Spread right across five territories and making good use of the wide variety of soil, the company’s roots were originally crafted in the Menfi territory, where the family run estate has been cultivating vines for 17 generations.

The Ulmo and Dispensa estates are spread over 250 hectares, and guests can stay on the estate itself in the boutique hotel resort of La Foresteria Menfi and discover the best Planeta wines, along with the olive groves of Capparina. The family’s residence in nearby Palermo also provides rooms right at the heart of the city with access to the historic cultural centre.

The taste of Sicily

For those travelling to the east of the island, the Sciaranuova vineyard in Etna is a recent addition to the Planeta wine list, producing Nerello and Carricante vines, while the vineyards of Buonivini are where you will find the indigenous Nero d’Avola grape variety central to many Planeta wines.

 

Well travelled palate

The vineyards of Dorilli and Mogli in Vittoria territory also produce Planeta’s Cerasuolo, Nero d’Avola and Frappato indigenous varietals, while Capo Milazzo to the northeast is where you will find ancient varietals grown in the smaller Baronia vineyards.

All in all, a wine tour with Planeta alone will take you on a journey through Sicily that encompasses every varietal and landscape, with superb hospitality and food along the way.

Capo Milazzo on Sicily's northeastern tip
Capo Milazzo on Sicily's northeastern tip

The slopes of Etna have rich volcanic soil
The slopes of Etna have rich volcanic soil

A sustainable approach - Tasca d’Almerita

Not just a buzzword, sustainability is at the heart of the Sicilian wine industry and the Tasca d’Almerita winery is a benchmark in environmental best practice. With almost six hundred hectares planted with vines, the Tasca family are the first to recognise that after eight generations they have a responsibility to protect their family legacy for future generations.

Vineyards on Tasca d'Almerita's Regaleali estate
Vineyards on Tasca d'Almerita's Regaleali estate

A feast for the senses
A feast for the senses

A family of estates

Across the five estates, which include the historical Regaleali estate, Capofaro on the Aeolian island of Salina, Tascante on the slopes of Mount Etna, Whitaker on Mozia, and Sallier de La Tour in the Monreale DOC, Tasca grows more than 50 grape varieties, of which over half are grown for research purposes for Sostain – an Italian wine NGO that Tasca has been a member of for over a decade. They are also involved in the V.I.V.A. Sustainable Wine programme that allows them to both quantify and reduce the impact of their production on the environment. Aside from helping with vital research, Tasca also uses renewable energy in both their wine production and running of the estates.

 

Immersed in Sicilian culture

A tour through their Regaleali estate will take you through vines including Nero d’Avola, Perricone, and Cabernet Sauvignon, while the grain and wheat fields nearby are harvested and used to create delicious breads and pastas to be enjoyed with the olives found throughout Tasca’s properties. A cookery school and restaurant here also champions farm-to-table style cuisine, and guests staying at any of the various estates can learn sustainable practices to take home with them.

Ripe with tradition – Barone di Villagrande

To learn more about Sicily’s historical viniculture, head to the east of Mount Etna where the Nicolosi family have been making wine since the early 18th century. The estate’s manor house (with four guest rooms and an infinity pool) surveys 18 hectares of vineyards on the slopes of Etna. Overlooking Taormina and the coastline below, the stunning landscape hosts vines that are up to 100 years old, with grape varieties including Carricante, Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio, all from the Etna area. Discover ancient traditions and awaken your senses with a tasting session paired with seasonal Etnean delicacies.

Mature Nerello Mascalese vines
Mature Nerello Mascalese vines

Vines on Etna's fertile slopes
Vines on Etna's fertile slopes

Cornelissen's diversified approach reaps unexpected benefits
Cornelissen's diversified approach reaps unexpected benefits

Back to basics with winemaker Frank Cornelissen

One of the most exciting wineries to emerge in recent years, Belgian born Frank Cornelissen has been causing a stir in the Sicilian wine scene. Championing organic practices, he produces unique, natural wines harvested on the slopes of Mount Etna. The 24-hectare estate, established in 2001, comprises 13 hectares of old vines in free-standing bush form, and nine hectares of old vines transformed into modern rows (the remaining area produces olives, fruits and vegetables).

 

Avoiding packing in the vines, as is the usual form on Mount Etna, Cornelissen eliminates classic diseases by planting in a lower density for ventilation, and also cultivates other plants between the vines, including buckwheat to regenerate the soil and produce cereal. His aim is to evolve into a self-sustainable agricultural farm. Limiting his supply has paid off and Cornelissen is one of the most famous natural wine producers in the world, with a waitlist for his blended and single vineyard cuvees.

Discover ancient traditions with COS Winery

Located in the heart of Vittoria, COS (an acronym of three school friends who founded Azienda Agricola COS), is today one of Sicily’s best known wineries. The vineyards, which are located in Fontane and Bastonaca, are on highly fertile land that slopes down the Iblei Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea. Some 25 of the 32 hectares are cultivated with native varietals such Nero D’Avola and Frappato grapes, of which Cerasuolo di Vittorio is their best known. Extremely low in sulphates, the natural wines are produced in a non-interventionist, biodynamic way. Discover ancient cellar practices that were used over 2,000 years ago by the ancient Greeks with a visit to the cellar, where the wines are mainly aged in traditional amphoras (clay jugs dug in the earth).

COS researches the origins of wine production
COS researches the origins of wine production

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