Native Sicilian Wines and Grapes

Did you know that grapes have been grown on the island of Sicily for over 2000 years? 


While many of the grapes now grown in Sicily, are international varieties, the island still maintains a significant percentage of ‘indigenous’ or native grape variety plantings. These are grapes that originated in Sicily and that are still predominantly grown here. These grapes thrive in Sicily’s warm, dry, and sunny Mediterranean climate. 


Here are six of the most important native or indigenous Sicilian grapes that have been grown on the island of Sicily for centuries, and that we grow and work with at Gambino Winery. 


How many of these Sicilian wine and grape varieties are you familiar with? Which are your favorites?  

Nero d’Avola

When it comes to Sicilian wines, nero d’avola is often considered the King. Also known as calabrese, nero d’avola takes its name from the town of Avola in Southeastern Sicily, and is the most planted red wine grape in Sicily. It is also one of the oldest known indigenous Sicilian wine grape varieties. 


Known for producing plump, fruit forward, and deep garnet/purplish wines that display flavors and aromas of black cherry, licorice, and tobacco. While nero d’avola is often treated with little to no oak, and is the main component in some of the most affordable wines in Sicily, this grape can also produce powerful and structured wines when aged in oak barrels for a longer period of time.

Interested in tasting a nero d’avola that has been aged for nine months in oak? Our Duvanera is made from 100% nero d’avola grapes. It’s one of our customers’ absolute favorite Gambino wines.

Nero Mascalese

If nero d’avola is the King, nerello mascalese would be the queen. This native Sicilian red wine is often compared to pinot noir due to its body and elegance, and produces light to medium bodied wines with bright acidity. Many consider it to be the Sicilian grape with the most potential for producing truly great wines, particularly when it is grown on the slopes of Mount Etna. 


Nerello mascalese has become popular as the main grape in sparkling and rosé wines in recent years, but is still primarily used to make still (non-sparkling), red wines.

Are you a fan of nerello mascalese? We make two single varietal nerello mascalese wines, a rosé and a special red called Petto Dragone that has been aged for 12 months in oak. We also blend nerello mascalese with nerello cappuccio for our Tifeo Rosso

Nerello Cappuccio

A cousin to nerello mascalese, nerello cappuccio is a dark skinned grape that makes soft, rich wines. It is most often blended with other Sicilian red wine grapes (such as nerello mascalese), rather than being bottled as a single varietal wine. Like nerello mascalese, nerello cappuccio thrives in Mount Etna’s volcanic soils and the wines display red fruit characteristics (cherry is the fruit most commonly noted). 

Interested in trying a wine made with nerello cappuccio grapes? Try our Tifeo Rosso, a blend of nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio.

Carricante

Thought to have been grown in Sicily for over a thousand years, carricante is a native white Sicilian grape that produces light bodied, refreshing, high acid wines with citrus and herbal flavors and aromas. The best carricante wines come from the Mount Etna growing region, where the grape is required to make up a majority percentage of all Etna DOC wines. 

Interested in trying a wine made with carricante grapes? Try our Feu D’O Bianco, which is a blend of Carricante and Grillo.

Catarratto

Catarratto is the most widely planted grape in Sicily. It is most often used in blends alongside Sicilian white grapes such as carricante. This grape produces fuller bodied white wines with plenty of bright citrus and acidity and blends well with other white wine varieties to make crisp, refreshing whites that meld perfectly with Sicily’s Mediterranean climate and food.

Interested in trying a wine made with catarratto grapes? Try our Tifeo Bianco, a blend of carricante and catarratto.

Grillo

Also known as Riddu and Rossese Bianco, grillo produces medium to full bodied white wines with medium acidity and floral and herbal aromas or flavors. Grillo is classically paired with seafood, grilled vegetables, or pasta (all of which you can find plenty of in Sicily!). 

Interested in sampling a wine made with grillo grapes? Try our Feu D’O Bianco.