Andrea BacciIn 1500, an abstract on wines attributed to a certain Andrea Bacci, (Sant’Elpidio a Mare, 1524 – Rome, October 1600)  De Naturali Vinorum Historia, was written.Largely dedicated to Sicilian wines, the writing refers to I rossi dell’Etna (The Reds of Etna) and the wines of Val di Noto as being of high quality.



Enta by Vanvakys

On the wines 0f  the  PalermoCammarata and Agrigento regions, he wrote: “ Cammarata the vines grow prolifically, and as tall as men, so rich in grapes that ten plants are enough to render a bottle of must… The red wine is very strong, rich in fragrance and flavor, it is optimal for long-term
preservation…The great wines of “Mongibello” (Etna) are good due to the natural warmth that springs from below ground… (while) the wines of Palermo are clear and light…”

Antico palmento _2


Even Pope Paul IV, during the XI century loved Sicilian wines, and was known to recommend Bianco d’Alcamo most of all.





K43692CARAVAG 1 Michelangelo Merisi or Amerighi da Caravaggio  or simply the Caravaggio, is in exile in Sicily, around 1608 : he’s one of my favorite painter of all time!… “Caravaggio’s novelty was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of “chiaroscuro” like a black and white photographer…Caravaggio made his way to Sicily where he met his old friend Mario Minniti, who was now married and living in Syracuse. Together they set off on what amounted to a triumphal tour from Syracuse to Messina and, maybe, on to the island capital, Palermo. In Syracuse and Messina, Caravaggio continued to win prestigious and well-paid commissions. Among other works from this period are Burial of St. Lucy, The Raising of Lazarus, and Adoration of the Shepherds. His style continued to evolve, showing now friezes of figures isolated against vast empty backgrounds. “His great Sicilian altarpieces isolate their shadowy, pitifully poor figures in vast areas of darkness; they suggest the desperate fears and frailty of man, and at the same time convey, with a new yet desolate tenderness, the beauty of humility and of the meek, who shall inherit the earth.





vino bianco Alcamo edited Sicilian wines became so famous that they made for extremely profitable commerce for the VenetiansGenovesePisansFlorentines, and Jews. It was the beginning of a cultural period that lasted until “modern” times. The “cultural backlog” in Sicily, particularly among the agricultural sector, had kept the society attached to a somewhat feudal system, whereas the rest of Italy, and most of Europe, had developed into Republics and municipalities.





araldo medievale Caccamo  copy smallAs a consequence, Sicilian wine was commercialized by and for foreigners, therefore even nowadays used mostly as an additive for French, Spanish, and Northern Italian wines, leaving a legacy of wine culture limited merely to a handful of passionate barons, counts, and local croppers.
The business of wine did not adhere to many standards of quality at that time. Negligence, ignorance, and apathy accompanied Sicilian wine toward oblivion and mediocrity, with respect to other aspects of culture that were considered more important.





The-Merchant-of-VeniceIn fact, the business of Sicilian wine and produce in the North was managed almost entirely by those from Lombardy, a traffic pattern which led to the formation of La Maestranza dei Tavernieri or “The Majesty of the Public House Keepers”, in 1545.







Pachino cherry tomato by Vanvakys - Version 2 copyThe tomato, which arrived from America a few centuries earlier, was a great success in Sicily. Initially used as a spice, it then became an ideal condiment for pastapizzafish, and meat, and was well suited to the kosher recipes of the Jews, and was often used in their dishes. The farmers and cultivators planted many different quantities and diverse types, so as to actually create new kinds, born of grafts and various types of cultivation, among which we must mention the ciliegino di Pachino”, or Pachino cherry tomato”.



Rigatoni alla Norma by Vanvakys small copy 2In 1831, ”pasta alla Norma, a dish of clear poetic origin –  actually  operatic – was dedicated to Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. It was in  that  year that the Scala di Milano presented the first production of this  beautiful opera. Actually, it was a true fiasco—so much so that Bellini,  disappointed and embittered, wanted to retire from his career as a  composer. However, a friend of his, who happened to be a chef, presented Bellini  with a very special pasta dish upon his arrival in their hometown of  Catania, below the many terraced towns of Mongibello (Etna.)


Vincenzo Bellini composer from Catania, photo by Vanvakys copys mall copy The dish  consisted of “mezze-maniche” pasta with fresh tomato sauce (representing the fiery lava), chunks of fried eggplants (the fruits of land), and a generous dusting of ricotta salata, (representing the snow) dedicated to his opera: La Norma. It is said that his pleasure upon tasting it reinforced his spirit and humor, convincing him to continue. According to anecdote, Giuseppe Garibaldi, the international mercenary, was a non-drinker. But he was unable to resist the sweet taste of Marsala. Disembarking with his “Thousands” in the city of wine (on May 12, 1860), he began his mission to invade the Reign of the Two Sicilies for the  king of Savoy.





Marsala Florio Cantines ancient bottles collection 2 copy smallHe so loved that sweet wine that it later took the name DG, after him. Still to this day, bottles of sweet Marsala carry the letters, DG, or, “Dolce Garibaldi”.
Modern wine production has surely changed with respect to the “recent past”, and certainly reflects other changes in Sicily, though delayed in comparison with the rest of Europe, on a historic and economic level, though always within the same “religious” respect for habits and traditions that are still maintained today.




Etna vineyard _1 copy x web

Sicilian winemaking has a nonlinear history, due to the diverse microclimates and scattered cultivation in many of the territories: from the very first crops on Etna, with its volcanic earth, to the layered organization of the Biblino plantations of Syracuse, covered by very fertile agrarian soil constituted largely from the breakage of 

Feudo Arancio Sambuca di Sicilia copyunderlying limestone and organic substances. to the distant fields of Trapani, to the grand estates of Marsala.