Sicilia, or Sicily, is a tropical island off the 'toe' of Italy, where the Ionian Sea joins the Mediterranean. The southernmost tip of Europe, well below the 37th Meridian, it is luminous with hot days and cool nights that make it ideal for cultivating grapes.
Even larger than the expansive Tuscan terroir, Sicily is Italy's largest winemaking region, at 10,000 square miles. The island's wines date back to ancient times and reflect the area's rich history. Under the rule of the Roman Empire, a sweet wine known as Mamertine is said to have been the favorite of Julius Caesar.
For many centuries, the region's winemaking benefited from the sloped terrain, stony, calcareous soil, and tropical climate, but by the start of the 12th century, Sicily's reputation took a turn for the worse—the island became notorious for mass-producing the poorest quality of vino da tavola.
After centuries of distain, Sicily finally bounced back in the 1970s and 80s with a new approach, focusing on quality versus quantity. Vintners began to cultivate more carefully the local red Nero d'Avola vines—some of which are up to 40 years old. Today, Sicily is rebuilding its reputation for great wines of bold character, in hopes of reclaiming the title of Italy's best.