Sicily is the land of outstanding food, wine, patisserie and… chocolate!

I took a little break from my wine hunting, so I decided to travel to the city of Modica (in the South-East of the island) in search of one of the best Sicilian food excellence: chocolate! It is there where I met Innocenzo Pluchino, expert chocolatier and owner of Ciomod, a boutique and artisan chocolate factory founded in 2003.

Innocenzo is very passionate about his mission to produce, “from bean to bar”, the best chocolate in the world! Only the finest cocoa beans, flavoured with natural spices like vanilla, chili pepper and cinnamon are used to produce Ciomod’s chocolate bars. They are so good that I left the factory with lots of samples to bring back to Scotland, how could Steven, my husband forgive me if I didn’t!

The history of Modica’s chocolate is very fascinating, and Innocenzo is a great story teller! In less than an hour I learned that Modica’s chocolate has ancient origins and had its roots in the Aztecs, the civilasation who ruled central and south America from the 13th to the 16th century.

For the people of ancient Mexico, cocoa was considered a nutritious food, a financial support and a symbol of high social position. It was also used for its benefits and healing properties. Aztecs used cocoa beans to make a drink called “Xocoatl”, flavoured with spices and local herbs.

So, how did the Mexican cocoa beans arrived to Modica? Thanks to the Spanish domination in both Mexico and Sicily in the sixteenth century. The Spaniards probably learned from the Aztecs the technique of processing cocoa beans and they were the first to add the sugar during the making process.

Historically, it has been handed down as a typical dessert of the Spanish noble families who prepared it at home for their enjoyment. Since then, it has become an internationally renowned confectionery product.

Modica chocolate has obtained the IGP recognition, becoming the first chocolate to be protected by the European Union.

 

Once a year, I travel home to Sicily to visit our winemakers to taste new wines and hear the latest news on the harvest and the annual production. I am very looking forward to my Sicilian trips, I see my family, enjoy some sunshine and taste lots of wines!

At La Sicilyana we are proud to personally check the quality of the wine that ends up in the glass of our clients. It is a great investment of time and money but it is worth the effort.

I always experience a delightful hospitality at Cantine Nicosia, located at the feet of Etna Volcano. Had a great chat and wine tasting with Graziano Nicosia, owner and great grandnephew of the vinery founder, who introduced me to some new wines. Needless to say that I loved them all! The challenge will be deciding which ones will make into our wine list!

I was particularly impressed by their Etna Rosso Lenza di Munti, already awarded by a prestigious Italian wine guide.

Great news for the lovers of natural wines. Their delicious organic and vegan Frappato, now has NO ADDED SULPHITES! After two years of experimentation, the result is a great natural wine with a fragrance of strawberry and a brand new look.

Not only great wines. At Cantine Nicosia you can also experience authentic local cousine. Their restaurant, called “The Osteria” is one of my favourites. A welcoming place with a wonderful view of Etna volcano. Great food complimented by their superb wines, my family and I absolute love it! The chefs have revisited the Sicilian culinary tradition with a contemporary and gourmant twist using only prime and local ingredients. Highly recommended!

The tasting tour continues, next stop Valledolmo, the home of Castellucci Miano vinery.

One of the qualities you should consider when purchasing wine is its sustainability with minimal impact on the planet resources.
Large-scale intensive agriculture is reality into wine making. Pesticides, herbicides, extra sulphites are widely used, ending up into your wine, then into your body.
Making natural wines like “the old days” requires time, hard work, incredible knowledge of the terroir biodiversity.

Sicily terroir and wine making is a great example of virtue.
One of our favourite wineries – and best seller – is Castellucci Miano. They apply sustainable agriculture for the making of their beautiful, incredibly flavoured and award winning natural wines.
What do they use as fertilizer? Cow poop! Pesticides and herbicides? None, only alternative, natural ancient methods.

The photo taken by my friend Piero Buffa, CM general manager, shows the harvest of Perricone, the most ancient Sicilian indigenous grape, planted in Valledolmo since the 16th century.

We are the exclusive UK retailer of Castellucci Miano, superb organic and award winning wines.

p.s. In only two weeks, we sold out their Perricone… again!

Ciao!

In Sicily, even mid September, can be really hot! What is the perfect wine to chill out on a Sicilian summer day?

The heat would suggest a wine that can be chilled to refresh the palat, like a white or a rosè. Surprisingly, even a light bodied red can be very enjoyable in the summer! My recommendation? Pair the wine with your food or mood!

Salads, seafood, finger food aperitif? Go for bubbles, a lightly sparkling or a crisp, fruity white wine. Do not chill with ice, freeze some white grapes and drop into the glass for the same result without watering down your good wine!

BBQ party? In the heat, I would avoid the heavy reds, choose instead a rosè or a red with light/medium body and lower alcohol content.

In the garden, admiring the wonderful view hand in hand with your beloved one, nothing better than a glass of a lightly oaked white to sip very, very slowly.

My choice? From our exclusive range, aperitif with the bubbles of the Prosit Rosè or the organic white Miano. For the BBQ, Vulkà Rosè or the organic and vegan light red Frappato. In the garden, an award winning Etna Bianco.

Ciao!

Our customers ask this question from time to time: “Why should I buy a Sicilian wine?”.  The answer is “For many good reasons, it’s a great choice!”

The land, the history, the tradition, the dedication of incredible winemakers and so on. But this is only Laura’s word! So, when the most prestigious wine critics join our little voice on plauding Sicilian wines… what a sense of pride!

According to the New York Times last ranking, 3 out of 10 of their favourite Italian white wines, are Sicilian. By the way… we know the product and the people behind these amazing wines. My Island offers an incredible and wondeful variety of soil, climate, international and indigenous grapes. Over the last three decades, incredibly determined winemakers have completely changed the reputation of Sicilian wines, delivering an outstanding product that is conquering the palat of the wine lovers around the globe.

From Eric Asimov of the New York Times, commenting on white Sicilian wines: “Sicily, like the rest of Italy, has long been known as red wine territory. Yet slowly, the whites of Sicily, particularly those grown in the foothills of Mount Etna, have been earning attention as among the most distinctive and unusual white wines in Italy, if not the world.

What makes them so different? These are not conventional, fruity whites. They offer none of the tropical flavors sometimes associated with New World chardonnays, none of the peach and apricot of German rieslings, not even the tart twang of sauvignon blancs”.

We cannot agree more, Mr Asimov…

Ciao!

 

Photo Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The wine arranged in the supermarket shelves intimidates, all of us. Here a (wee) guide and some tricks to purchase with more confidence.

The first rule? Choose based on what you usually like. In short, the grape that you would always like to find on the table.
A basic guideline: the climate. The hotter the region of production, the more the wine tends to be sweet and fruity (and alcoholic). The colder it is, the harsher and more acidic it is. How is your geography?

The percentage of alcohol present in a wine must by law, always be indicated on the label. For richer and more complex wines, linger on the bottles with an alcohol content of 13% or more. For a drier and lighter wine, look for lower percentages.

Avoid bottles with generic names. Italy, France, Spain. Look for a more specific region, linked to a controlled and guaranteed denomination. Etna Rosso, Barbera d’Alba, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC. Many wine-producing areas often have production regulations that regulate the winemaking process by ensuring a (more or less high) standard for the wine that shows the geographical indication on the label.

At La Sicilyana, we taste, import and sell great Sicilian wines, we love to help our customers with a personalised recommendation on our award winning range. It is so important to choose the perfect wine for a special occasion, a lovely gift or to simply pair with your food. We love to have a chat over our wines, it’s always great fun.

Ciao!