Sicilian Winemaking Leads the Way

A new generation of educated, globally sophisticated winemakers is steering this timeless region into the 21st century with bold strokes.

Sicily, with its Roman ruins and Greek temples, its medieval villages and its rugged, primeval mountains, has a timeless quality. But at the same time the country is preserving history, it is also still making it. Cohering, innovating and modernizing—the Sicilian wine industry today is one of the most dynamic in the world.

As Italian Editor Monica Larner reports in her story that begins on page 48, the changes that began in the Sicilian wine industry in the 1990s are continuing today at a dizzying pace: new vineyard plantings with an array of unique, indigenous grapes as well as international varieties; cooperation among strands of the country’s wineries and associations; the rise of Sicilian brands that are now recognized throughout the world, with a thoroughly modern approach to marketing, notably with social media; and the passing of the baton to a new generation of winemakers—like Fabio Sireci of Feudo Montoni and Marilena Barbera of Cantine Barbera—many of whom have international experience and formal training.

This last phenomenon is what I find most fascinating, since it has given birth to the rise not only of modernization in many wineries, but also to a regional trend toward “natural” (minimal intervention), organic and biodynamic winemaking as well as an accent on sustainable practices. If we’re looking for a concrete example of Sicilian wine innovation in the face of tradition, this is it.

Further, winemakers with a growing international reputation, such as Arianna Occhipinti and Giuseppe Russo, are focusing on grape varieties that have virtually no track record on the world wine market and are forging ahead with them, and doing so with pride: Nero d’Avola most prominently, but the roster goes on and on—Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Carricante; antique varieties, rescued from extinction, like Lucignola, Catanese Nera, Dunnuni and Tintorè.

Innovation and diversity are also at the heart of the exciting Riesling wines being produced around the world today, and on page 66 our editors delve into bottlings—and their myriad food pairings—from Germany to New York and beyond. Discoveries continue in Contributing Editor Virginie Boone’s feature on California’s Sierra Foothills, home of trailblazing producers lending a new face to Rhône varieties like Syrah and Grenache. We profile four of the notables behind this new wave of wines, accompanied by reviews of their top wines.

Change and evolution is an integral part of the world we live in, and the wine world is perhaps an even faster-moving realm. We revel in this growth, and we hope you do too.

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