Other

The Best Sicilian Wine Pairings


When you think live volcano do you also think vineyard? Probably not. But in the Etna region on the Mediterranean island of Sicily, there are vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano.

So in the spirit of adding a new taste to your wine repertoire, we thought we’d enlighten you with a region you might not have considered. And since we’re in prime fish grilling season, pair recipes with the wines of Mount Etna for you so you can add a continental twist to your lazy August dinner table.

Plus, these winemakers work hard to bring you their wines. In addition to worrying about all of the other elements, farmers there have to deal with lava and extreme inclines in order to make great wine.

So fire up the coals and use this post as your guide to pairing Mount Etna wines with grilled fish.

Recipe: A Great Basic Recipe for Grilled Fish
This recipe suggests using halibut, swordfish, or tuna, which are solid, steak-like and great for grilling. The recipe also suggests a wood fire or actual charcoal instead of gas, will give the fish a more authentic Mediterranean flavor.

BONACCORSI VALCERASA Etna Bianco 2009 (Etna, Italy) $22
Pale yellow, fresh, and floral, a refreshing pairing for grilled fish.

Recipe: Grilled Swordfish with Eggplant, Anchovy and Green Olives
Many of the ingredients in this recipe — olives, garlic and anchovy — scream Mediterranean flavor. A little olive oil and lemon, and you’re in fish-grilling heaven.

TENUTA TERRE NERE Rosato 2012 (Etna, Italy) $20
A refreshing medium-bodied rosé with a hint of citrus, this is summer in a bottle..

Recipe: Grilled Halibut with Lima Bean and Roasted Tomato Sauce
Play the right Italian music and add some rustic flare to your table setting, and you might just think you’re in Sicily enjoying this grilled fish and wine combination.

MURGO Etna Rosso 2010 (Etna, Italy) $12
This wine is medium bodied, with a hint of smoke, earth, and cherry, perfect for the roasted tomato flavor of this pairing.

Click here for more from The Daily Sip.


Rules for Great Wine & Food Pairings

UtterlyHome.com may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

So, your wall wine racks are full with a great selection of bottles, but you are unsure of how food and wine pairing works with your dishes. For example, what winter choices bring out the flavors of winter comfort food like a casserole?

Wine and food pairing takes some practice. After all, each tastes different, even when they are the same grape from the same region. You don’t need to be a sommelier to know how to pair with your food, though.


Sicilian Recipes

Surrounded by the sea, Sicily and its culture have seen their fair share of outside influence over the centuries. Greeks, Spaniards, Arabs and the French are all among those peoples who’ve left a lasting mark on the region’s history, and especially on its cuisine.

Spaniards brought New World goods such as cacao, tomatoes and maize. Greeks came with olive oil, veggies, and Middle Eastern pistachios. Meanwhile, the Arabs introduced fruits such as apricots, citrus and melons spices of saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove and sweets including marzipan and even sugarcane. All of these historical culinary influences – from pistachios to produce such as oranges — continue to form a very prominent part of current Sicilian gastronomy.

Continue Reading about Sicilian Cuisine

They’ve worked their way into popular plates such as caponata and pasta alla Norma, both which make use of the beloved regional veggie eggplant, along with other farm-fresh ingredients. Then seafood, of course, is an obvious mainstay in the water-surrounded region, with popular pesce dishes featuring everything from sardines to sea urchin.

Veggies and fish are also combined with Sicily’s own special pastas, including busiate with its spiraled strands, as well as its less-curly cousin casarecce. And no list of Sicilian cuisine would be complete without making mention of arancini, giant fried rice balls often generously packed with cheese, peas, and other goodness depending on the region.

Wines of Sicily

What to drink with all of these diverse local dishes? Why, the local wine, of course. Geographically among the most varied regions in Italy, Sicily has undergone a real revolution in the last quarter century that has made it one of the most important wine production areas in Europe. Though it’s particularly popular for reds such as Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the true ambassador of Sicilian wine is the often full-bodied, earthy and spicy Nero d’Avola.

But It’s around the volcanic Mt. Etna that some of the real wine headlines are made these days. There, ancient grapes lend to whites characterized by a fruity and mineral profile, and reds rich in floral notes, red fruit, and spice, and that are full and dry in the mouth.

Heading west, the Trapani area turns out one of the most famous fortified wines, a relative of Sherry called Marsala — a great wine to finish off a meal, and a great way to toast to Sicily as we get this southern culinary journey started.

Sicilian Cuisine

Surrounded by the sea, Sicily and its culture have seen their fair share of outside influence over the centuries. Greeks, Spaniards, Arabs and the French are all among those peoples who’ve left a lasting mark on the region’s history, and especially on its cuisine.

Spaniards brought New World goods such as cacao, tomatoes and maize. Greeks came with olive oil, veggies, and Middle Eastern pistachios. Meanwhile, the Arabs introduced fruits such as apricots, citrus and melons spices of saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove and sweets including marzipan and even sugarcane. All of these historical culinary influences – from pistachios to produce such as oranges — continue to form a very prominent part of current Sicilian gastronomy.

They’ve worked their way into popular plates such as caponata and pasta alla Norma, both which make use of the beloved regional veggie eggplant, along with other farm-fresh ingredients. Then seafood, of course, is an obvious mainstay in the water-surrounded region, with popular pesce dishes featuring everything from sardines to sea urchin.

Veggies and fish are also combined with Sicily’s own special pastas, including busiate with its spiraled strands, as well as its less-curly cousin casarecce. And no list of Sicilian cuisine would be complete without making mention of arancini, giant fried rice balls often generously packed with cheese, peas, and other goodness depending on the region.

Wines of Sicily

What to drink with all of these diverse local dishes? Why, the local wine, of course. Geographically among the most varied regions in Italy, Sicily has undergone a real revolution in the last quarter century that has made it one of the most important wine production areas in Europe. Though it’s particularly popular for reds such as Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the true ambassador of Sicilian wine is the often full-bodied, earthy and spicy Nero d’Avola.

But It’s around the volcanic Mt. Etna that some of the real wine headlines are made these days. There, ancient grapes lend to whites characterized by a fruity and mineral profile, and reds rich in floral notes, red fruit, and spice, and that are full and dry in the mouth.

Heading west, the Trapani area turns out one of the most famous fortified wines, a relative of Sherry called Marsala — a great wine to finish off a meal, and a great way to toast to Sicily as we get this southern culinary journey started.


Where to Stay in Sicily

Tenuta Regaleali, Sclafani Bagni (Contrada Regaleali, 90020 Sclafani Bagni PA, Italy +39 0921 544011): Approximately two hours by car from Palermo and set amid the rolling hills of Sclafani Bagni, this property offers all the rustic-chic charm that you𠆝 hope for from rural Sicily, and the home-style cooking is outstanding (the pasta alla norma here is the best I’ve ever tasted).

Asmundo di Gisira, Catania (Via Gisira, 40, 95121 Catania CT, Italy +39 095 097 8894): This property is located right next to La Pescheria fish market and set in a palazzo from the 1600s that contemporary artists have kitted out with decidedly non-17th century works. Each room is decorated and themed differently, and surprises can be found around every corner (including a Spider Man sculpture.)


On Pairing Wine With Pasta

Here are 5 popular pasta dishes with a selected wine style as well as several suggested wines (both Italian and otherwise) to get you started. We’re not suggesting this is the only way you could enjoy these wines or pastas, just one way. Many roads lead to Rome, as it were. And, hey, there’s only one way to find out. Start popping bottles! Happy drinking.

Tomato-Based Pasta

Go From Beginner to Expert

Tools and accessories that help you expand your knowledge.

Tomato-based sauces are powerful, high acid and are often blended with rich, red meats. Because of the acidity in tomatoes, a relatively tart red with middle-weight body is your best option. As much as this sounds limiting, there are a ton of different grape varieties (and blends) that will happily fill this role. As you add more richness (meat, cream) you can move up in body, but definitely keep the fresh acid! Here are a few examples:

Recipe Pairings

Cheese Pasta

It’s hard to find a wine that won’t pair fairly well with cheese, so instead, think of this pasta style as an opportunity to try some of the more texture-based, nuanced pairings. For example, a white wine with some creaminess to it, like an oak-aged Italian Trebbiano or Chardonnay, is going to create a congruent pairing and highlight the creaminess in the cheese (think ricotta!). Also, lighter more floral red wines are another awesome pairing partner with tart, intense hard-cheese pasta, especially if there are mushrooms or root vegetables involved in the sauce. Here are a few options to try:

Red: Langhe Nebbiolo, Nerello Mascalese, Pinot Noir (or Italian Pinot Nero from Oltrepo Pavese) and Sangiovese

Recipe Pairings

Seafood Pasta

If you look up great coastal Italian recipes, you’ll discover that many contain some anchovies, clams, or some sort of seafood. Being surrounded by the Mediterranean is an essential part of coastal Italian cooking. Perhaps this is why the Italians make such deliciously lean, acidity-driven white wines, often with a sense of refreshing bitterness. Naturally, lean to middle-weight white wines are the way to go for most seafood based pastas unless there is tomato as well, and then you’ll want to look into a rosato (Italian rosé). Here are a few top picks:

Pinot Grigio, Verdicchio, Vernaccia, Picpoul de Pinet (from France), Grenache Blanc, and Muscadet

Pesto Pasta

While most of us are familiar with the “classic” pine nut and basil pesto, you can really make pesto with whatever greens and nut pairing you desire: basil-walnut, parsley-pistachio, peanut-cilantro, hazelnut-mint… you get the idea. The real trick to matching these different pestos with wine is by simply acknowledging the green is the centerpiece of the dish. As soon as you do, whatever wine you choose (be it red, white or bubbly) should in some way be a harmonious, congruent pairing with the green. For the most part, you’ll find that herbaceous wines (like Sauvignon Blanc) are best suited. Of course, there are many amazing savory, herb-driven wines out there, so don’t let this list hamper your creativity. Here are some examples to get you thinking:

Fiano d’Avellino, Friuli Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Gavi, Grillo, Catarratto, Picpoul de Pinet and Grüner Veltliner

Orecchiette Kale Pesto and Fiano di Avellino Your kale has never tasted so deliciously aromatic as it does when it’s processed with fresh lemon, parmesan, almond and olive oil into an amazing pesto. With a focus on lemons and freshness that this dish highlights a perfect wine for this is a young, smokey Fiano di Avellino.

Primavera (Vegetable) Pasta

Spring onions, garlic ramps, artichoke and broccolini often create the backbone of a great primavera, although anything fresh and seasonal will do. The goal of this dish is to really highlight the springy freshness of all the veggies, which is why a light-bodied white wine with lemony and floral notes is a great choice. Of course, a well-prepared primavera and major vegetable intensity, so it will need an equally savory white wine. Of course, if you add tomatoes to your primavera, see the top of this article. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Pair Wine and Food Everyday

Live the wine lifestyle. Use this chart to make amazing food and wine pairings.


In Australia, it&rsquos &ldquoShiraz&rdquo, and they produce a great of it &ndash generally a little more delicate, with American and French Syrahs a little heavier and bolder. Italy, northern France, California, Washington State and New Zealand are also producers of some great Syrahs.

One of our favorite new wineries in Washington State is Avennia, which makes a highly-regarded new Syrah blend (disclosure: Avennia&rsquos founder is a good friend of BigOven&rsquos founder.)

There are four main blending compositions of Syrah:

  • &ldquoVarietal&rdquo Syrah or Shiraz. This is the style of Hermitage in northern Rhône or Australian Shiraz.
  • Syrah blended with a small amount of Viognier. This is the Côte-Rôtie (northern Rhône) style.
  • Syrah, blended equally with Cabernet Sauvignon, becoming quite popular in the US. In modern times, this blend originated in Australia, so it is often known as Shiraz-Cabernet.
  • Syrah, blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre. This is the traditional style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape of southern Rhône -- this blend is often referred to as GSM in Australia.

Food Flavor Profiles

Another popular method to pair wine and food is by placing them into one of 6 food flavor profiles. This includes salt, acid, fat, bitter, sweet, and spicy. Below we breakdown each flavor and the important aspects to consider when pairing them with wine.

Food Flavors

Salt is common in a variety of different foods but is common in fried foods, pasta sauce, and potatoes among others. Salty foods can really have an impact on the taste profile of a wine. As a result the best pairings for salty foods include sparkling wines and acidic wines. Acidic wines serve as a great complementary pairing and will have the ability to balance the flavors within a dish.

Acidity is a common in both food and wine making complementary and congruent pairings possible. Acidity can add freshness to both wine and food. When creating a pairing, the acidity of the wine should be at least equal to the food or the wine will taste bland. So the rule of thumb is for your wine to be more acidic than your food. Salad dressings are very high in acidity, so when pairing salads its important to base the pairing off of the dressing and not the salad contents itself. A great pairing for acidic dressings is Sauvignon Blanc.

Fat is one of the few flavor profiles that can not be found in wine. As a result, when pairing fatty foods with wine the key is to create complementary pairings. One key aspect in wine that pairs well with fatty foods are tannins. The bitterness created by tannins in wine have the ability to soften the fat within meat and enhance the flavors. A great suggestion is a cabernet based wine. This is the case because the fruit and berry flavors of the wine will complement the smoky flavors within the meat.

With the existence of bitter food and bitter wine there is one key rule to follow. Avoid congruent pairings, so pairing bitter foods with bitter wine. Pairing to bitter elements will only enhance the bitterness in both the food and wine making it an unpleasant pairing experience. One suggestion is to try more complementary pairings such as acidic wines, off-dry Riesling, and Zinfandels.

The level of sweetness is key to take note when pairing wine with desserts and other sweet food items. The wine has to taste sweeter than the dessert or the wine will be overwhelmed ultimately stripped of its flavor. Sweet food can also enhances the bitterness in wine making the taste unpleasant to most. So avoid pairing sweet foods with wines high in tannins.

Spicy foods can be complex but they allow for both complementary and congruent pairings. The main factors to consider is the ability of spicy food to increase the taste of bitterness and acidity and decrease the body and sweetness of a wine. Riesling is a great complementary match with a hint of sweetness and great fruit flavors.

Overall food and wine pairings can be as simple or as complex as you would like them to be. The one thing to keep in mind is to have fun and ultimately drink what you enjoy!

About the author, Alayna Rouse

Alayna is currently a marketing intern at Backbar. As a current graduate business student she stays up to date on all the newest marketing trends. She is also a wine enthusiast who has traveled the world studying wine and alcohol production.


Secondi: main courses

Secondi, or main courses in southern Italy are typically fish, poultry, or meat-based, though you can also find several traditional vegetarian dishes. A traditional Italian restaurant sells the contorni, side vegetable dishes, separately. Focus on the main course itself when considering the match, and remember that the sauce more frequently drives the pairing than the particular protein involved.

Classic Roman restaurant menu staple Saltimbocca alla romana (veal cutlet Roman-style with prosciutto and sage, simmered in white wine and butter) is a dish made for flavorful white wines, which are not Lazio’s specialty. So, I’m apt to look back up north, but not too far, to one of Le Marche’s great aromatic and savoury-herbal Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi (Villa Bucci, Garofoli, Umani Ronchi).

Though the Tuscans claim it as their own invention, you’ll find Pollo al mattone (lemon-herb-marinated, spatchcocked chicken cooked under a brick) all over southern Italy. Young, tender, free-range birds are best, and this dish can go either towards intense whites like Campania’s Fiano di Avellino or Greco di Tufo, or lighter reds like Sicily’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a blend of Nero d’Avola and frappato (COS, Terre di Giurfo, Gulfi). The latter also works perfectly with Pesce Spada Alla ghiotta (swordfish rolls in tomato sauce), as would most dry rosatos.

Staying in Sicily, Pollo al marsala (chicken in marsala wine sauce) needs a wine with some heft, such as a full-bodied, soft, wood-aged white, like a barrel-aged version of Contessa Entellina Bianco (Donnafugata), or, say, a Southern Rhône white like Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. Calamari ripieni Alla Siciliana (calamari stuffed with raisins and anchovies) needs a wine with the sweet fruit of its own but preferably light or no wood influence, as in one of Sicily’s Grillo-based whites (Cusumano, Tasca d’Almerita, Tenuta Rapitalà), while Tonno Alla Palermitana (tuna Palermo-style marinated in white wine, lemon, garlic, rosemary, broiled, served with pan-seared sardines) takes us in a similar direction, or towards Rosato, such as one based on Sicily’s Nero d’Avola.

Sicily

Vegetarians delight in a tiella di verdure (casserole of baked vegetable with mozzarella and basil), an Apulian specialty. It might be served with the local Locorontondo Bianco, a mild-flavoured blend of verdeca and Bianco d’Alessano (Leone de Castris, Rivera), though I’m just as likely to pull the cork on a light, herbal red along the lines of straight-up Valpolicella (Corte Sant’ Alda) with a chill, or even Loire Valley Cabernet Franc if I’m feeling heretical.

Pork is naturally served all over Italy, but Sardinia turns Porcetto (spit-roasted suckling pig with myrtle) into high art, a dish formerly reserved for Easter celebrations but now served a year long. On the island, I’d be ordering a white Vermentino di Gallura (Surrau, Unmaredivino di Gioacchino Sini, Cantina del Vermentino di Monti), though lighter, fruitier versions of red Cannonau (aka Grenache) also serve the purpose. When you’re in the mood for a more robust and swarthy southern Italian red, order up Agnello con le olive (roast lamb with olives, green or black) and make your way to the Aglianico section on the wine list, one of southern Italy’s finest red grapes (Mastroberardino, Quintodecimo, Terra di Lavoro).


Grillo: Try This Cool White Wine From Sicily

Looking for a cool new white? Meet Grillo (pronounced GREE-lo). Hailing from Sicily, Grillo produces crisp and savory wines—some structured enough to offer moderate aging potential. Lighter styles have citrus blossom and peach nuances, while more aromatic versions deliver passion fruit, grapefruit and herbal sensations reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. Lees contact and barrel aging create more complex, mineral-driven wines loaded with apple and citrus flavors. Vineyards closest to the sea produce wines with pronounced saline notes.

A crossing of Catarratto and Moscato di Alessandria (Zibibbo) grapes, Grillo was once used exclusively in Marsala production. Plantings declined in the 1960s, when producers opted for more vigorous varieties. Grillo was nearly abandoned. But, in 1990, legendary Marsala producer Marco de Bartoli decided to vinify Grillo on its own as a dry white wine.

“Grillo is the best white grape for the hot plains around Marsala,” says Renato De Bartoli, Marco’s son, who runs the winery along with his brother and sister. “It thrives in the heat and doesn’t become cooked and jammy as do [some] international grapes.” A recent re-tasting of De Bartoli’s 2011 Grappoli del Grillo (91 pts) showed it’s just hitting its ideal drinking window.

In 2014, Grillo plantings reached approximately 16,000 acres—a 180% increase from 2004. Antonio Rallo, president of the DOC Sicilia consorzio and co-owner of the Donnafugata winery, calls Grillo’s resurgence dramatic.

“Grillo has taken off, especially in the U.S.,” he says. “It’s fresh and easy-drinking, but with a savory note that gives it a distinctly Sicilian personality.”

Donnafugata 2015 Sur Sur $19, 91 points. Vibrant and savory, this opens with lovely aromas of spring flower, citrus, herb and white stone fruit. The round, juicy palate offers ripe white peach, juicy grapefruit, pineapple and mineral alongside fresh acidity. A saline note backs up the finish. Editors’ Choice.

Cusumano 2015 Shamaris $20, 90 points. Apple, yellow flower and sea breeze aromas lead the way. The bright, elegant palate displays lemon, lime and walnut alongside vibrant acidity. A mineral vein underscores the savory flavors. Drink now or hold another two or three years for more complexity.

Stemmari 2015 Grillo $10, 89 points. Alluring aromas of citrus, white flower and a whiff of tropical fruit come together on this. The racy palate offers lemon zest, mango, sage, saline and an almond note alongside vibrant acidity. Best Buy.

Tenuta Rapitalà 2015 Grillo $14, 89 points. Subdued aromas of spring wild flower, hay and orchard fruit float from the glass. The vibrant palate offers lemon zest, sage, dried herb and a hint of saline framed in lively acidity. Best Buy.

Tasca d’Almerita 2015 Cavallo delle Fate $20 88 points. This opens with delicate scents of pear and pressed yellow flower. The tangy palate shows lemon zest, nectarine and a hint of Mediterranean herb while a saline note provides backup.


Pairing wines of Sicily with 3 local Sicilian dishes

What makes Sicilian food so exciting is the many influences it has incorporated thanks to its strategic location close to Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Italian favorites like pasta, pizza or gelato are common across the island but sprinkle a few local ingredients to bring out Sicilian flavors and expect some surprises. While you may be very familiar with some of the most typical Sicilian dishes below, others you may have never heard of.

You will see vegetables such as aubergines and tomatoes used extensively dried fruits and nuts are also common seafood and fish, as with any island, are fresh and locally caught. Sicilians also love desserts, which tend to be very sweet.

As with most wine regions in the world, the best pairings happen when local wines are married with local recipes . And what better way to enjoy the best known Sicilian dishes than with some locally produced wines?

It is said that Sicilian wines can pair with any Italian dish and that both Grillo and Nero d’Avola can go from antipasti to mains, but for a truly Sicilian meal, try the three well known dishes below with three great Sicilian wines.

Arancini

Rice, or risotto, is one Italy’s most famous dishes. In Sicily, risotto is replaced by rice balls called arancini . While the filling is usually meat, depending on what part of Sicily you are in, the balls could be filled with vegetables, seafood, fish or even cheese.

Because this is perhaps the best known Sicilian dish, it goes well with both Nero d’Avola and Grillo wines so the choice is all yours depending on what you feel like balancing the rich or creamy dish with. I would personally prefer a glass of Nero d’Avola but on a hot summer day’s lunch, a glass of Grillo or Catarratto would go great too.

Pasta with sardines

Another very traditional local dish is made with pasta and sardines , a common fish found in the area. While you can use any pasta for it, you would usually find it with spaghetti or other long-ish pasta.

What makes this dish extra unique is the use of pine nuts and raisins , another nudge to the local wine growing tradition and Arab influences. So expect some earthy flavors of the nuts and raisins together with the flaky and pungent sardines.

As an eminently Sicilian dish, it also goes well with all the local star grape varieties. Most people would traditionally pair sardines with a fresh and acidic white wine but red wines could also work well depending on how the sauce was made as the nuts, tomato and raisins lend the dish a richer and heavier base.

So your choice will depend on whether you feel like adding a bit of brightness with the light white Grillo or more body with the red Nero d’Avola .

All the other local varieties like white Inzolia, Grecanico or volcanic Carricante could pair well with the richness of the sardines or even the red Frappato could work too. Blends with Chardonnay are also a good alternative.

Cannoli

The famous Italian sweet, often mentioned in Hollywood movies and TV series, is originally from Sicily . Cannoli are fried golden and filled with fresh, creamy ricotta cheese and other indulging bits and pieces like chocolate and dried fruits. Cannoli are best enjoyed with some Passito di Pantelleria , as I am sure you had guessed.

Learn more about the wines of Italy in the Italian Trade Commission website.