Posts Tagged Sicily


Marsala Wine: Blame The Brits


The first thing you learn on visiting the Sicilian city of Marsala – where the fortified wine hails from – is the phrase Before The British.

There’s a clear diving line between what is legally defined today as Marsala and an older style of wine locally called “vino perpetuo”. Perpetuo is, as the name suggests, is a wine that appears to go on forever. It is kept in a barrel and topped up with new wine each year, when a quantity is removed. This is similar to the solera fractional blending system used for Sherry.

The sweet, fortified wine that most of us know was “invented” in the late 18th century. English merchant John Woodhouse, so the story goes, took shelter from a storm in Marsala, liked the perpetuo wine and wanted to take some home. To preserve the wine for the journey, he fortified it and tah dah! A rival to the highly-fashionable Madeira was created. (more…)

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Etna Wines Are Smoking Hot


Heroic viticulture. A rather romantic term for the hard graft of growing grapes on steep, terraced slopes at least 500 metres above the sea.

Perhaps, then, growing grapes around Etna is super heroic.

After all, these vines lie in the foothills of one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Etna has erupted seven times so far this year, and a thick plume of smoke spewing from the main crater was visible on my recent visit to the region. (more…)

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Biondi Ambition for Etna Wines


We’re in Ciro Biondi’s truck, climbing a vertiginous rocky path in his Cisterna Fuori vineyard in the foothills of Mount Etna.

It is not for the fainthearted or the easily carsick.

Ciro says he’s taking it slowly because I’m in the truck, along with Mr. Sipswoosh.  We both feel very grateful. (more…)

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