Ask an Italian what wine they consider to be best, and they will invariably point to a winery down the street or to a vineyard on the hillside adjacent to their village. This is a country around which wine and food are the central components of everyday life, and citizens are justifiably proud of what is grown in the fertile soil of this ancient land.
As a wine-stained graduate of Whatsamatta U, I am understandably partial to the vino made in Italy. As a matter of fact, what I love most about Italian wine is its tremendous diversity. Within the geographic confines of its 20 states, Italy produces a virtual sea of wine from a dizzying array of grapes. The most famous wine states are Tuscany in north-central Italy and Piedmont in the northwest. In Tuscany, the great wines of Brunello di Montalcino and Ornellaia share the stage with the ubiquitous Chianti, and whites such as Vernaccia Di San Gimignano. In Piedmont, the prestigious vines of Barolo and Barbaresco (made from the Nebbiolo grape) reign supreme, and are joined by Barbera and Merlot along with crisp whites such as Arneis and Cortese Di Gavi. Both of these regions are in the northern part of the country where the wine produced is considered to be the best.
But what about the wines of the south and, more specifically, of Sicily? In the recent past, the cognoscenti would regularly heap praise on the wines of northern Italy, while those south of Rome were, at best, marginalized, and those of Sicily were dismissed as barely drinkable. Unfortunately, when most of us ruminate on Sicily, we conjure up images of the Mafia or Don Vito Corleone – a literary invention of the late American novelist Mario Puzo in his book "The Godfather." To butcher a line from that storied work: Sicily made me an offer I couldn't refuse - great food and wine!