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Sicilian Native Vines – First Part
Rosa D'Ancona – June 29, 2005



Introduction

 
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The microclimates of the island of Sicily can be compared to a well from which all genetic resources needed to produce typical wines can be drown, thus further consolidating the newly achieved respect on international as well as national markets.

In the past, the majority of wines made with native Sicilian vines were used to produce either simple local wines, or sold in bulk to be used in northern Italian and French blends. Currently though, after years of hard work, local producers and administrators alike understand perfectly that, in order to sustain what is sometimes called the enological 'Sicilian Miracle', the industry must push the envelops with regards to unique and typical wines. The selection and cloning project of native vines, promoted by the Department of Vegetarian Production of Milan University, the Department of Tree Culture of Palermo University, the Coreras, the Vine and Wine Regional Institute, and the Vegetable  pathologies  Experimental Institute of Rome, grew out of these production and marketing ideas.

This five-year study, realized with a two million Euro investment, focused mostly on four points.

  • Recover and promote the Sicilian native vines for use in viticulture, winemaking and commerce.
  • Create sanctioned clones from native vines their list in the register of authorized varieties.
  • Offer breeding ground keepers, hence vintners, selected vines of potential high quality
  • Study and evaluate grape production and enological quality of the vines and related clones in reference to the growing zones.

SiciliaIn addition to the 10 native vine varieties currently being cultivated – Catarratto, Frappato, Grecanico, Grillo, Inzolia, Nerello Mascalese, Nero D’Avola, Nerello Cappuccio, Perricone and Zibibbo – that account for 80% of all the island vineyards, 28 more ancient vines have been detected, and other are still being analyzed.

The Sicilian  vineyards cover approximately 138,000 hectares (about 341,005 acres) and produce over 7 million hectoliters (over 184,920,436 gallons) of wine. It is worthwhile to note that in 2003, the most recent year for which these data are available, the production of IGT, DOC and DOCG wines was 365,563 hectoliters (over 9,657,152 gallons). The average yearly production of such wines in the most recent five-year-period considered was 239,000 hectoliters (about 6,313,712 gallons), or the 1.8% of the total Italian production.

Sicilian exports more bottled than bulk wines, confirming in recent years a tendency that emerged first in 2001. In fact, during the five-year-period from 1999-2003, the medium value of bottled wines resulted in €48.6 million, while the average value of the wines sold in bulk totaled €37.3 million, this despite the difference in quantity of wine sold: 196,100 hectoliters (about 5,180,413 gallons) of bottled wine against 1,051,000 hectoliters (over 27,764,480 gallons) of bulk wine. The production of DOC wine in Sicily however, still represents only the 2.6% of the total.

Doc and Docg wines made with the 10 major native vines

Vine DOC Wines
DOCG Wines
Catarratto  
Frappato
Grecanico  
Grillo  
Inzolia
Nerello Cappuccio  
Nerello Mascalese
Nero d’Avola
Perricone  
Zibibbo  


 
 
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