“Sicily is justifiably famous for its cuisine and its wine has recently been praised internationally. What better way to experience it than on our Sicilian Vineyards, Wine and Food tour?”
Legend has it that the first grapevine sprang from under the foot of Dionysus, whirling in a frenzied dance on the foothills of Mount Etna, and indeed archaeologists confirm that the first wines on Sicily were almost certainly autochthonous. Wine-making techniques were refined by the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Romans and the famous Mamertino wine from Sicily was said to be a favourite of Julius Ceasar.
Even the Arabs, who as Muslims did not drink the wine, contributed to the evolution of wine-making on Sicily. Then in 1100, Roger de Hautville founded the Abbazia Sant’Anastacia winery near Cefalù, which is still producing wine to this day. The heyday of Sicilian wine-making began in the 13th century and lasted for some 200 years. It was a period in which Sicilian wines were exported to Rome, Liguria, Venice and Tuscany and played an important role in shaping European palates.
Then in the late-eighteenth century, a British wine merchant, John Woodhouse, introduced the Spanish and Portuguese methods to Marsala and subsequently supplied wine to Nelson’s navy, making him one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the island.
But the late 19th century phyllloxera blight, followed by a total neglect for quality after the second world war, risked pushing Sicilian wines off the world wine map. Thankfully however, with greater investment and marketing in recent years, the Sicilian wine-trade has now been reversed and we are able to enjoy some absolutely world-class wines. With such a deep historical tradition, it is not surprising that Sicily is one of the largest wine producing areas in Italy and home to some of their very finest wines.
And of course, the whole purpose of wine is to “wash down food”. So what better excuse than to enjoy the wonderful Sicilian gastronomy? We choose a variety of menus to accompany our wines, and, during the day, we will also go out of our way to taste some of the local specialities.
Arrival in Palermo and onward to Marsala
Evening meal and overnight in Marsala.
Marsala, located in western Sicily facing the Egadi Islands, is Sicily’s largest wine producing center (using the native Grillo and Catarratto grapes) and probably the region with the most interesting history. British Admiral Nelson discovered the wines of Marsala when passing through its port in the year 1800 and became so enamored of them he ordered 500 barrels to take along with him to his fleet awaiting him in Malta. Along with wines such as Port, Sherry and Madeira, Marsala soon found its place in the British market.
Marsala suffered (along with other wines like Sherry and Port) when the market’s taste changed and favored dry wines, and many Marsala producers lowered the image of the brand by making flavored wines used mainly for cooking. Luckily certain producers continued to make ever-finer wines, and managed to once again make the Marsala name famous. Today we visit two of the more interesting wineries in Marsala.
Evening meal and overnight in Marsala.
The countryside surrounding the town of Camporeale above Palermo is home to some of the most exclusive wines in Sicily. Today we go in search of these wines and seek out one of the rising stars of the Sicilian wine scene.
In the afternoon, we drive to Palermo.
The evening meal will be at the Palace of the “Leopard” – the last home of the writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – in the company of the Duchess.
In the morning we will visit the Ballarò market – justly famous as one of the most vibrant markets in Palermo.
After lunch in a trattoria in Palermo we drive south through some beautiful scenery to the Regaleali Estate.
Evening meal and overnight on the Regaleali Estate.
About an hour south of Cefalù, the Tasca d’Almerita estate is set in pristine countryside. The winery is located on the Regaleali estate close to Vallelunga Pratameno and is one of the most beautiful in Sicily. Both indigenous and international grape varietals are planted from the ubiquitous Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to flagship Sicilian varietals like Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Catarratto and Inzolia. Tasca’s wines are often blends of both local and foreign varietals.
In the morning we enjoy a tour of the estate, before sitting down to a fabulous lunch. After lunch we head south to the town of Vittoria and the Planeta Wine Estate, Cantina Dorilli.
Before dinner there will be a presentation of some of the Planeta wines along with a selection of their olives.
Evening meal and overnight on the Planeta Wine Estate, Cantina Dorilli
The wines of Vittoria are distinctly different from the others in Sicily. The rich, red-coloured soil imbues the local wines with a flavour uniqe to the island. Today we visit two local wineries and taste distinctive local wines like cerasuolo and frappato. In addition, this is the only DOCG area in Sicily.
We go to visit two very contrasting local wineries in the area and at the send of them, we have lunch.
After lunch we drive to Catania.
Evening meal and overnight in Catania.
We start with a free morning, allowing people, perhaps, to visit the fish market, or maybe the cathedral.
We gather for a light lunch, after which we head off to explore the wines of Etna.
The Etna DOC was established back in 1968 – making it the oldest DOC in Sicily. The region has been compared to the Burgundy region of France and is considered by many to be the next big thing in the wine world. Wines produced include rosados (rosés), dry white and dry red wines and characteristic grapes are the Caricante, the Cataratto and the Nerello Mascalese. The Milo area produces the Etna Bianco Superiore.
Today we visit two local wineries to sample their wares.
On the way back to Catania, in the evening we stop off at Acireale for our evening meal.
Evening meal in Acireale. Overnight in Catania.
Transfer to Catania for return flights.