Sicily, the largest of the Mediterranean islands, has something for everyone. With sandy beaches, ancient ruins, a still-active volcano, and ultra-fresh cuisine, it's no wonder people flock to this most southern part of Italy. And lately there's a new reason: Sicily's becoming a wine lover's paradise.
Lying between western Sicily and Tunisia, the windy Pantelleria is dotted with picturesque stone homes called dammuso. The volcanic island is also home to Specchio di Venere, a turquoise lake in the crater of a former volcano that's great for a swim or mud bath. After your dip, take a boat around the island, go for a hike, or relax in one of Pantelleria's natural hot springs. Pantelleria is the only place in Italy to grow zibibbo grapes, so be sure to also visit a vineyard.
Winemaker Donnafugata has a beautiful winery here, with stone walls weaving through the hilly vineyards. It's open for tours in the summer and offers wine tastings paired with Pantellerian cuisine. While there, sample their two zibibbo wines:
- Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria -- The island is famous for its passito, a sweet wine that goes great with desserts such as Sicily's famous cannoli.
- Lighea -- This bright, aromatic white wine is the dry version of Zibibbo, for those wanting a less sweet option.
Ragusa, in the southeast, is the smallest of Sicily's nine provinces. But in what space that it has, it packs many UNESCO World Heritage Sites cities, including Modica, Scicli, and the provincial capital Ragusa. In the capital, take time to explore Ragusa Ibla, the city's lower, older section with baroque churches, narrow lanes, and cafes. Don't leave without trying ragusano, a hard cheese made in Ragusa, as well as granita, a refreshing semi-frozen treat -- almond and lemon were our personal favorites.
We also love winemaker Valle dell’Acate, near the town of Acate. The winery offers tours as well as wine tastings paired with Sicilian food, in a striking tasting room overlooking hilly vineyards. Sampling these reds is a must:
- Il Moro -- Made with nero d'avola, Sicily's most popular red grape, this wine is full bodied and spicy.
- Il Frappato -- A lesser known red, this frappato is perfect when craving something lighter and fresher. It can also be had chilled.
Tasca d'Almerita's Regaleali Estate
Tasca d'Almerita has been making wine for over 150 years, and its main estate, Tenuta Regaleali, is a destination in itself. Located in mountainous central Sicily, the remote 19th century estate encompasses endless vineyards and rolling hills. There's also a working farm, vegetable garden, and internationally recognized cooking school. You can take a tour, explore nature trails, as well as take a cooking class. For a longer escape, spend the night in one of the estate's seven rooms, some overlooking wine country.
When sampling Tasca's wines, don't miss out on the estate's fresh Sicilian food, with many of the ingredients produced right there. Two of the must-try wines are made from Sicily's most popular white grapes:
- Grillo Cavallo delle Fate -- While previously known for its part in the sweet wine Marsala, grillos like this one are dry and complex.
- Catarratto Antisa -- Made from the catarratto grape, this wine is light, fresh, and easy to drink.