STORIES AND LEGENDS OF SICILY PREFACE

 

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

                      Edmund Burke (1729-1797) 

trinacria bella how sicily was bornSicily is the richest and most interesting region of Italy, according to recent statistics. In fact, more than 37% of Italian  monumental and artistic wealth is found in the ancient Trinacria (term given by the ancient Greeks, depicting,  according to classic iconography, the “medusa with three legs,” representing the triangular form of the island, and symbol of the sun). With regard to its geographical position, Sicily is, in fact, the  largest island in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, and has  always been of great strategic importance for all populations  that have visited it.Sicily is a point of encounter, practically obligatory for  the  diverse peoples that gravitate in the area of Mare Nostrum, or  “Our Sea”, a place of business exchange where different cultures have met and assimilated over the centuries, like multicolored tassels in a mosaic.

historia-siciliana.itIt is, shall we say, an ancient Melting Pot of people with various languages, habits, and beliefs, that have fused together in testimony of the richness that diversity provides to humanity.The Sicilian monumental and artistic panorama emphasizes the profoundly beautiful combination of styles and patterns in each and every territory: from the Greek statues of the Satiro in Mazara del Vallo and Mothia (Trapani) and the Greco-Roman theater of Taormina to the mosaics at Piazza Armerina (Enna), and on and on through the centuries up to the present day to mention some:  Fiumara d’Arte of Santo Stefano, and  Gibellina (Trapani).

Sicily in effect is the the world’s largest Open Air Museum

The great German traveler, Wolfgang Goethe (poet and writer during the XVII century) said:

“To come to Italy and not visit Sicily, is not to recognize its true essence and spirit”.

This enormous and invaluable wealth, you will see, is discovered not only in the artistic-monumental aspect, but also in the richness of its eno-gastronomic tradition, already appreciated worldwide, though perhaps not well understood, and most of all not properly evaluated by the local and national governments, without a doubt, as a the greatest  sources of business of our land.

 

In Sicily, more than in other parts of the world, human history (from the Latin, “Istor”, or to comprehend) and legend (form Latin, Legere, or to read) are closely connected to both wine and culinary tradition.

We invite you, therefore, to read the history of Sicily by a different literary key, on that we find quite appropriate, as well as “appetizing”, and which we call: “Sicilian Wine. Stories and Legends from the Kitchen to the Cellar.”

 

WINE FOR THE SPIRIT…OLIVE OIL FOR THE BODY: THE GREEK MYTHS

WINE FOR THE SPIRIT…OLIVE OIL FOR THE BODY: THE GREEK MYTHS

Dyonisious putto wine copy

Homer referred to Sicilian olive oil in his Odyssey, which he based largely on this island of volcanoes and vineyards. Indeed, today we believe olive oil was the sole food product exported by the Greeks, according to its availability in Solone, around the sixth century B.C. In fact, it was here that the conservation of olives in “salamoia”, or, in salt, began, and where whole and pitted olives were packed and shipped for arrival at the tables of the gourmands of the period.

 

The grain here is also of the highest quality, as the characteristics of durum wheat make it optimal both for long-term preservation, and immediate use for bread-making. It is said that the rich taste of the bread was an inspirational factor in the Romans’ decision to fight for the land that later became known as the “bread basket of Rome.”

OIl -home little

Eventually, it was Sicilian grain that was used to make the durum wheat cakes that sustained many legions of seafarers and conquerors that covered the whole of the known world…

 

Archestrato of Gela (IV century BC), wrote “Hedypatheia” or “Gastronomy” The first gourmet book in the world.

dionysius_i_of_syracuse
 As a young poet Archestratus was disciple of the most famous Epicurus, becoming an Expert in the art of pleasure. In his poem Archestratus tells of his long journeys in search of the best food and the finest wines. It also deals with the bread, fish, the production and storage of wine and food. It focuses mainly on fish, indicating the best quality, the places of origin, the most famous species and the specific fishing seasons. The first gourmet book in the world. 

Along with the grain from Sicily, the ancient Romans exported olives, fish and cheeses in terracotta vases they called vasa salsamenteria or “delicatessen vases“, made from the rich Sicilian earth. Interestingly, the salsamenteria of the time later came to be called salumeria, which is used today to mean “delicatessen”.
Unfortunately, the ancient Romans preferred the cultivation of grain to that of vines, which led to the abandonment of many vineyards and also the deforestation of large areas of land in order to make use of the wood needed for warships.

Plato (philosophical disciple of Socrates, Athens, 427-347 B.C.) write about the lifestyle and diet of the Greeks of Syracuse, which in his opinion, was overloaded with agricultural products, including cheeses, olives, onions, figs, myrtle and roasted chestnuts, often accompanied by wine. Remember Symposium means “drink together“!

Artistic ceramics of Castel Mola copy

 

THE ARRIVAL OF THE VINES AND THE LEGEND OF DIONYSIUS

THE ARRIVAL OF THE VINES AND THE LEGEND OF DIONYSIUS

Dyonisius big copy 2 go

As we well know, the ancient Greeks, and then the Romans, loved myths and legends – myths and legends that were recorded by the eminent poets and philosophers of their time, and who remain fundamental to western culture today, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, just to name a few.
Their narratives touched upon weakness and virtue, nobility and gods, and depicted women and men who confronted wars and adventures, whether for passion or simply in search of a better understanding of the mysteries of the world and this life.

According to some of these legends, it was jealousy that precipitated the arrival of grapevines in Sicily. Zeus, the father of the gods, and always on the lookout for new love interests, fell for Armonia, a beautiful young maiden. It was his wife Hera who, upon learning of this betrayal, went straight for the counterattack, transforming herself into the young maiden’s food, and convincing her to ask Zeus to appear to her in all of his majestic splendor with which he ruled Olympus. Armonia was already pregnant when, between claps of thunder, and flashes of lightning, Zeus appeared. The glorious sight was too much for her to bear, and the strength of her emotion caused her to give birth prematurely, shedding light on a most breathtakingly beautiful baby boy.

foto8

At that moment, Zeus recognized the foul play, and immediately sewed the infant to one of his legs, completing the gestation period much as an incubator would, and for this reason, the child was called “Dionysus,” that is, the son of Zeus, the god of fertility, joy, and well-being. Dionysus decided to leave the Ellade and escape to Sicily bringing a grape vine with him. As he was undertaking a long sea voyage, and needed to protect the small plant from the elements, he first placed it inside the bone of a bird, and later inside that of a lion, and since it kept growing, he finally placed it in the bone of a donkey. Thus was born the first ancient rule of drinking, and which is still worth remembering today:

Satyr_Bacchus_Petit_Palais_ADUT00240_

A good glass of wine makes you light as a bird, another drink and you are courageous as a lion, but when you exaggerate with wine, you end up an ass!.” Upon his arrival in Sicily, Dionysus planted the first vineyard at Naxos, just below Taormina, the first Greek colony.

Abraxas Passito di Pantelleria DOC

Abraxas passitoType: Sweet
Alcoholic content: 14,5%
Grapes: Zibibbo (Moscatello d’Alessandria)
Terrain: medium textured and relatively loose soil
Altitude: 180mt. above sea level
Average age of vines: 20 years old
Exposition: From east to south west
Row Orientation: ‘Alberello’ (a cultivation technique involving severe pruning)
First vintage: 2000
Average yearly production: 12,000 bottles
Harvest: After tenth day of August, Left to wither naturally under the sun This is a sweet wine made from Zibibbo grapes, naturally withered in the sun on Pantelleria. It conserves all the scents and aromas of slowly matured grapes.

 

 

 

Wonderful Italian Wine for Summertime 2013

Italian Trade Commissioner

and Lucio Caputo President of the Italian Wine & Food Institute present:

“Wonderful Italian Wine for Summertime”  
 
A wine and food tasting event exhibiting the best summer wines,
especially Spumanti, Rosé, Prosecco and Moscato, and food specialties from Italy
 
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
 
at the Italian Trade Commission
33 East 67th Street, New York 
 
sicilywine
SicilyWine Producers:
 
 
Selected SicilyWine Importers:
Palm Bay International
ID  Beverage Group
Media & Communication
Long Island PULSE
Untamed Hair Productions
GrandCrueClasses.com
Accademia Italiana Della Cucina (New York Delegation)
 
 
 
 

THE OLDEST WINE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA: THE MOSCATO DI SIRACUSA

THE OLDEST WINE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA: MOSCATO DI SIRACUSA

gastronomia

 

Wine, as it is known, has been diffuse since ancient times. In fact, instances of wine citation reach back to the Babylonian age of Gilgamesh. Perhaps the oldest known sample, an amphora containing traces of wine, was found in Ajii Firuz, Armenia, in the form of a bi-conical vase dating back to the year 3,500 BC. The first traces of wine cultivar in the Mediterranean sea originated at some point during the IV Millennium on the island of Cyprus (Erimi and Pygros), where the wine vase was invented and later evolved into the Roman amphora, the most commonly used receptacle of the ancient era, and the best method of its time for the preservation and transportation of wine.The myth and the legend of Moscato or Pollio of Syracuse. Homer and Hesiod described it thusly: “sweet, graciously scented and most suave… the only example where poetry and lyrics converge in the memory of time…” Moscato di Siracusa is derived from a variety of grapes originating in the Caucasus, and is the oldest known variety among whites. The Greeks called it “Anathelicon moschaton“, and they cultivated and exported the grapes throughout the Mediterranean. The Siceliot (ancient Sicilians) referred to the grape as “Pollio“, also known as “Biblino“, a name that comes from Pollio Argivio, the king who ruled the Greek colony of Syracuse.

Siracusa Greek T copy

Wine for a perfect “symposium”. In ancient Greek society, wine had a fundamental role in the symposium (from etymological root, syn- + posis, meaning “ to drink together”) because it facilitated both profound meditation and interpersonal relationships. Wines were often diluted with water, honey and spices in order to render it more palatable, except for the Moscato of Siracusa, which did not require much tampering and was likely very similar then as it is today. Once considered a luxury item afforded almost exclusively to nobility, enjoying this wine today allows the rest of us to share the experience the same kind of sensation those ancient peoples revered: “ …intense, persistent, fine, vast and ethereal, with a hint of honey, candied fruit and white withered flowers”.

 King-Frederick-II-Germany-Sicily-Jerusalem-EmperorFamous Moscato di Siracusa  lovers.

Among famous historical figures and favorable appraisers of various time periods we find Frederick II, the Emperor of Sicily (XIII Century) who loved Syracuse for the beauty of its landscape and the bounty of its vineyards, and who built there a castle which he named, “Solacium“. 

 

 

 

Gioacchino_Rossini_19th_century_portrait

More recently, the XIX Century Italian composer Giacomo Rossini and XX Century American writer Henry Dumas, were among the many who visited Syracuse for the pleasure of taking in the physical and ethereal beauty of the place, as well as taste the famous Moscato of Syracuse, decanted by the ancient poets so long ago. 

 

 

 

henry-dumas  

 Henry Dumas