Bursting with vineyards and charm, Italy is home to over 3,000 different grape varieties from 20 different regions. The biggest and probably most famous islands contributing to Italy’s proud title of the world’s largest wine producer, are Sardinia and Sicily.
Sicily boasts the largest number of vineyards and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is one of Italy’s biggest producers of wine. Sicily has experienced a big revolution over the quality of its wines. There are now a large number of quality conscious wine producers on the island receiving international recognition.
Sicily is brimming with home-grown varieties of wine. The most commonly grown white variety is Catarratto, Inzolia and Grillo. Catarrato provides crisp wines with subtle aromatics. Inzolio is a little punchier, with crisp, mineral flavours combined with subtle citrus and tropical fruit tastes. Grillo is more of a full-bodied wine, with a richer texture and lemony and nutty flavours.
A popular red variety from Sicily, is Nero d’Avola. This is a good value wine variety, from an easy drinking, juicy, fruity wine, to a richer wine with more of an intense flavour. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a red, made from a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola. These Sicilian wines are medium to full-bodied, with striking cherry aromas, soft tannins and a fresh acidity. Some winemakers age the wine in oak, while others prefer to make a fruitier, unoaked variation.
Sardinia, 150 miles off the west coast of mainland Italy, is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is a lot more isolated than Sicily. The majority of Sardinian vineyards lie on the western side of the island, lining the west coast. Despite the island’s ideal climate and landscape, only a small amount of Sardinia’s land is dedicated to vines. However, there are a number of producers creating high-quality wines, which are increasingly gaining international recognition.
Over the years, Sardinia has experienced a significant Spanish influence, which is noticeably reflected in the island’s diverse mix of wines. Cannonau, which is related to Spain’s Grenache, is the most commonly planted red grape on Sardinia. Giro and Torbato were also imported by the Spanish. Barbera, Sangiovese and Trebbiano are all Italian varieties that came from Piedmont. Other popular Sardinian reds enjoyed are Carignano and Monica.
The primary white grape variety planted on the island is Vermentino. Other Sardinian whites that have become increasingly popular include Malvasia di Sardegna, Moscato Bianco, and Vernaccia d’Oristano.