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The Ultimate Handbook To Sicilian Wine

Embarking on journeys and documenting wine escapades often intertwine. Each chance to explore the varied wine territories worldwide and plunge into the intricacies of wine crafting on a global scale is an exhilarating endeavor. As an individual primarily focusing on Napa Valley, the multitude of grape variations discovered worldwide never ceases to astound me.

During a recent stay at Verdura Resort in Sicily, part of the Rocco Forte Hotel group, I had the honor of meeting Nando Papa. Serving as the head sommelier at the resort, supervising the various dining establishments, including Zagara, named after the aromatic orange blossoms adorning the beachfront estate, Papa graciously conducted an exclusive ‘Sicilian Wine 101’ session for me in the resort’s wine cellar, where he divulged his insights and personal preferences.

Hailing originally from Caserta, Italy, Papa commenced his wine odyssey in Monte Carlo. His commitment to wine led him to clinch the runner-up position in a prestigious wine industry contest in 2000, subsequently bestowing upon him the title of ‘Chevalier’ of the Ordre des Coteaux De Champagne in 2018. Papa has refined his expertise in Michelin-starred eateries along the Amalfi Coast and at Villa D’Este in Lake Como. Furthermore, he devoted almost a year training under Bo Barrett at Napa’s esteemed Chateau Montelena. Presently, he stands as a highly esteemed sommelier at Verdura, curating exclusive wine assortments for discerning clients.

Sicily commands as Italy’s largest wine region, spanning over 10,000 square miles, surpassing even Tuscany. Boasting 23 DOCs and 1 DOCG, Sicily is renowned for its three pivotal red grape varieties: Nero d’Avola, Frappato, and Nerello Mascalese. Concerning white wines, popular selections encompass Catarratto, Grillo, Inzolia, and Carricante. Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, imparts volcanic soil infused with vital minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus to the grapevines rooted on its inclines. As per Papa, the Mt. Etna region reigns as Sicily’s most prominent and astounding wine-producing locale.

An array of vintners have established vineyards on the steep slopes of Mount Etna, resulting in zesty whites and bold reds. The fastidious hand-harvesting methodology is vital in upholding grape caliber. Papa’s top personal selection is Federico Graziani’s Profumo Di Vulcano, crafted from a small vineyard on Etna’s northern incline in the Contrada Feudo di Mezzo district of Passopisciaro. This wine showcases a ruby tint and a complex bouquet featuring raspberries, wild blueberries, citrus hints, Mediterranean herbs, oranges, tangerines, marjoram, and myrtle, intertwined with spicy nuances of sandalwood and pipe tobacco.

During my visit, I relished Calcagno’s Etna Carricante Primazappa Etna Bianco Superiore. This wine offers freshness, elegance, and a balanced composition, with half of its aging process taking place in barriques, resulting in a refined aroma and a lasting, savory flavor accentuated by mineral undertones, complemented by hints of hydrocarbon and a touch of toasting.

Delving into new wine territories enriches my expeditions, and I am excited to hunt down Etna-derived wines in local wine emporiums post my introduction to Sicily’s unique offerings. Irrespective of your location, a superior wine has the potential to transport you to a different realm, and I eagerly anticipate revisiting Sicily, even if just through the flavors resonating on my taste buds.

Image Source: Francesco83 / Shutterstock

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