By fiddling with Nero d'Avola and other native grapes, sicilian winemakers and carving a place for themselves on the world stage.
Inzolia wich is best grown at higher altitudes than the red grapes (many wineyards in Sicily are over 1,000 feet above sea level), has floral aromas and crisp fruit flavors that are accentuated by new winemaking technology. And then there is Catarratto, a white grape that is widely planted across western Sicily. Nonnative grape varieties exist on the island - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay - and some excellent wines are made from them. But the best sicilian wines are made either solely from local grapes or as blends of the local grapes with nonindigenous varieties. (...) Other producers on the island have departed from this traditional merchants' view of winemaking (buying grapes and fruit) and are relying on their own vineyards, wich in some cases are huge. Spreading regally over more than 1,000 acres in the center of the island, surrounded by 2,000 foot mountains, is the venerable Regaleali estate. Owned by the Tasca family since 1835, the vineyards cover nearly a month after the vineyards down by the coast. The slow ripening gives us great flavors in the grapes." This is an estate that is artfully blending old and new. Innovation has come in the use of international varieties - Regaleali was the first on the island to plant Chardonnay. But Count Tasca sees an increasing return to native varieties: "This is what our land is all about," he says, as he surveys the 19th-century estate from his favorite vantage point. Nor does he want to make that are too overtly concentrated and New World in style: "I don't want to make a wine that you have to chew. I want to be able to drink half a bottle if I choose." So Tasca d'Almerita wines emphasize elegance and drinkability. The Nero d'Avola reds, such as Rosso del Conte, Camastra and Cygnus, show the benefits of long, coolripening in their intense flavors. Under the watchful eye of Tuscan wine consultant Carlo Ferrini, thy will only get better.(...)Sicily's unrelenting sunshine, fertile volcanic soils covered with vineyards, citrus, almond and olive groves; narutal salt fields; and proximity to seas brimming with red tuna, swordfish, lobster, and red mullet, have inspired chefs since antiquity. "Our best dishes are born from a poor person's tradition," says Countess Anna Tasca Lanza, Count Lucio Tasca's sister, who runs an acclaimed cooking school at the family's Tasca d'Almerita - Regaleali winery. "Ask an 80 or 90-year-old wht they ate as young people and they will tell you 'bread, water, what we found in our gardens and what our neighbors gave us'. The historical force driving Sicilian gastronomy has more to do with hunger than appetite."