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Italians keen on promoting Sicilian wines

Special to The China Post--Until about three decades ago, much of the wine from Sicily was bland and sold in bulk. That situation has changed.

Now Sicily produces almost a fifth of Italy's wine, and Italy remains the globe's largest producer.

Michele Shah markets wine for Sicily. She said quality had leapt since the 1980s, and benchmark vineyards like Planeta and Donnafugata had established the island's reputation worldwide.

A major factor was the move away from international varieties like cabernet sauvignon or riesling, and a concentration on indigenous grape varieties.

“Over the past 15 to 20 years IRVOS (the regional institute for viticulture and olive oil) has contributed enormously — helping with vineyard management, research and clonal selection of indigenous varietals. Sicily's current production focuses on elegance and quality.”

Dario Cartabellotta, director of IRVOS, believes success came from focusing on local grape varieties. He organized a tasting from most of Sicily's 24 regions.

“Indigenous grape varieties show the character of our wine,” he said. “Sicily is a continent and thanks to its diverse microclimate we are able to produce wines of market appeal, from easy drinking to the more structured and complex wines with a true Sicilian imprint.”

Sicily has such a range of climates that in some regions the harvest starts as early as July, while in others it does not end until November.

The Italian government is keen to let the world know of Sicily's potential. Earlier this year it paid for 30 masters of wine to spend eight days in Sicily. Masters of wine (MW) are always busy people, and to get a tenth of all the MWs on the planet in one place was a remarkable achievement.

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