As the largest island in the Mediterranean with 25,711 sq. kms (9,927 sq. miles), Sicily has always been an important cultural crossroads of western Europe. Much of Sicily’s unique appeal and rich character is thanks to influence from Phoenician, Carthaginian, Greek, Norman, Arab, Albanian and Aragonese people living, conquering, and journeying through its land.
This incredible diversity can be seen and tasted in the delicious local food and wine found throughout Sicily. With so much to discover, we’ve narrowed down the top natural wine tours and producers to visit while traveling in Sicily. Don’t forget, there are also many outdoor excursions, hikes, and boat trips to consider while visiting Italy, so be sure to add them to your itinerary too.
Mount Etna, Sicily
Sicily produces many exquisite wines, some of which hail from the high slopes of Mt. Etna, an active volcano on the northeastern side of the island. Ranging from 300m to 1,000m above sea level, the vineyards’ soils and microclimates are incredibly diverse and some, difficult to farm. Many vines are planted on steep terraces on the face of the volcano, demanding heroic and very manual viticulture practices.
Ancient palmentos (cantinas or wine cellars) are found throughout, in varying degrees of abandonment. Fortunately, a renaissance has taken place over the past 3 decades. Many dedicated farmers are reviving traditional cantinas along with their age-old winemaking techniques to make top quality wines.
Natural wine lovers should contact Etna Terroir to book your custom natural wine tasting tour, witness volcanic lava fields, and take in the beautiful seascapes from high above Sicily. If you’re staying in Catania and want to explore the volcano by doing a trekking tour, definitely make time for a half-day Mt. Etna trip and see the black lava up close and personally. From Taormina, there are also great trekking experiences to consider including a half-day Mt. Etna trip and an amazing full day Etna trekking experience with a typical Sicilian lunch and wine tasting included!
Vineyards & Local Grapes
Top boutique, natural wine producers include Etnella, Vino di Anna and Calabretta, as well as I Custodi, Graci, Terre Nerre, and Cantina del Malandrino. If you want to visit a tiny boutique producer, you can also contact Fabio Signorelli, who’s making high quality, small production natural wines at Palmento di Levante. Fabio also makes wine for SRC and has worked for Tenuta Enza La Fauci, another great organic winemaker in Sicily.
On Mt. Etna, you’ll be treated to Etna Bianco white wines from 100% Carricante as well as blends of Carricante and Catarratto. The red wines of Mt. Etna are also iconic and primarily made from at least 70% Nerello Mascalase and 30% Nerello Cappuccio. These grapes complement each other to create age-worthy, full-bodied, and elegant red-fruit wines with good acidity and medium tannins. Delicious rosé (rosato) wines are also made from the same red grapes, perfect for lighter meals or an aperitivo.
Rustically beautiful, Pantelleria is unlike most other famed wine areas. With no natural water source, the seemingly inhospitable land nurtures nearly every fruit and vegetable imaginable. 60km off the coast of Tunisia, Pantelleria is a volcanic island adorned with goblet, bush-vines to protect the grapes from the threatening wind. The short vines dot the dry hills, nestled amongst caper bushes, stout olive trees, and nearly camouflaged volcanic rock houses called dammusi. The welcoming nature of its people resembles that of Sicily, but the language, cuisine, and culture are noticeably Arabic.
Renting a car is the best way to explore Pantelleria and all of it’s hidden viewpoints and natural wonders. However, if you don’t drive or would rather leave it to someone else, contact native islander, Julio, from Ammirando to help you explore all the island has to offer, especially its wines.
Vineyards & Local Grapes
Head to Abazzia San Giorgio to meet winemaker and incredible host Battista Belvisi at his humble home and cantina. You’ll taste through his ever-evolving portfolio of rare white, rose and red wines, munch on local snacks, and experience true conviviality.
Next, book a visit with notorious winemaker Gabrio Bini at Azienda Agricola Serraghia. Bini is a true legend, and for good reason. He handcrafts outstanding his wines in anfora (amphora) to allow the grapes to ferment and age enveloped by mother earth. The result is beautiful.
On the other side of the island, stop by boutique natural producer, Agricola Vinicola Gabriele where you’ll see more modern techniques used to produce pure and robust Zibibbo wines as well as a deliciously interesting Pignatello red wine. Last but not least, contact young winemaker Francesco Ferreri at Tanca Nica to taste the next generation of delicious Pantesco wines made from his grandfather’s old vines.
While on the island you’ll be able to taste a range of white wines from the native grape, Zibibbo (or Moscato d’Alessandria). Once used primarily to make sweet wines, today Zibibbo shines brightly as dry white wine with intense aromas and a complex tropical fruit profile.
Red and rosé wines are less common but are made from an indigenous grape Perricone and Syrah. It’s full of bold ripe red berry flavors, some spice, and a well-rounded acidic finish. At the end of your meal, you can get to know Zibibbo’s past by ordering a glass of passito wine, a sweet Zibibbo dessert wine that’s been made on the island for centuries.