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  • Writer's pictureТимофей Милорадович

Wine as a cultural asset

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Today we talk about the precious Sicilian wine. When I take a sip of Sicilian wine, I have a unique sensation. I feel a warm ray of joy rising from the region of my heart to my face and making me smile. I rejoice every time I take my first sip of Sicilian wine. It is not like the first sip of another Italian wine, which can be excellent, it lies down with soft warmth, gently envelops, warms. But this ray of joy from the region of the heart to the face gives only Sicilian wine. And then this feeling pours out with the second and third wave of tender joy somewhere upward, such overflows of joy, making a person light. And this is not just my feelings, I asked others, they feel the same.

We have tried to figure it out many times - why and how. For example, when we drank medium quality French wine that can be easily purchased in the store, at the same price as Sicilian and Italian wine, so, French wine of the same category gives a completely different feeling. French wine floats somewhere on the outward level of sensation, without going inward, and you just try to cope with the wave that French wine causes externally, but it doesn't touch you inside. While Sicilian wine does not in any way limit the range of external sensations, it gives maximum freedom and lightness, just enjoy from the inside.

I would say that Sicilian wine is like a spiritual balm. French wine is more of a passion. Continental Italian wine is, perhaps, tender, like a mother. But Sicilian wine gathers you and focuses you on the main joy, deeper and invigorates you, making you light.

I know very well that Sicilian wine can be different, there are many varieties, each with its own history. And this is the more surprising, as all Sicilian wine gives a feeling of joy and lightness from the inside. For me, it was a bit of a mystery, I wanted to try varieties of Sicilian wine and see the difference.

Now I can say that, yes, it is different, but it has exactly this common property: joy from within, warmth, invigorating, not awkward. I think this is probably due not even to the grape variety, but to the energy of the people who make the wine. Because each of our work carries a charge of energy that we transfer to it. We ask a Sicilian connoisseur about Sicilian wine, because Sicily is his home, Nicolò Reina, the manager of the Custonaci Tourist Office.

- Hi, Nicolò.

- Hello Elena.

- Nicolò, wine is the important part of people's culture. The Holy Scriptures speak many times of wine, it is a very symbolic and useful product. I assume that wine has been a treasure of Sicilian culture since ancient times, what is known about it?

- Elena, you're right, wine is a really important part of people's culture. The remains found in the areas of Mount Kronio (Sciacca) and Sant'Ippolito (Caltagirone) are at least 6,000 years old. That is, the wine of Sicily is one of the oldest on earth.

The technology of making wine makes it a part of our life for a long time. The wine remains with us for several years, and in the same containers we place a new harvest, and this is how the continuity of cultural traditions is achieved.

Wine accompanies us in joy and difficulty, we obviously transmit the spiritual meanings of the events of our life to the wine. This can be felt when taking a sip of wine, although I admit that different people may perceive it in other ways.

- What do you think is the most impressive wine of Sicily?

- I think, of course, Nero D'Avola. This is an extraordinary wine, it really thrills the heart with its deep intonations and richness of taste, color and aroma. Avola is located in the south-east of Sicily in the province of Syracuse.

- Yes, yes. I remember this wine very well, this is a true volcano of taste, a powerful wave of energy pours into you with every sip, freeing you from worries. You find yourself in another dimension of life after taking a sip of Nero. It remains in your attention, like a good conversationalist, and does not let you go.

- Probably, yes. But you know that there are other excellent wines from the grapes that grow on the slopes of Etna. Obviously Etna gives the grapes both a brightness of taste, since the slopes of the volcano have an extremely rich soil, and a sparkling energy.

Etna attracts people from all over the world like a magnet, with its beauty and its powerful energy. Etna is like an affectionate mother, it gives us joy, gladdens our heart and enriches our land. I fully understand that this is passed on to the wines we make and drink.

Spiritually, this is a single cultural whole: our land, our vine cultivation and wine. On the slopes of Etna also grow Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, red grapes, they are beautiful. But there are also some amazing white grapes that can give you that feeling of radiant joy from within, you described. This is the Carricante. And there is, of course, this wonderful wine of the Grillo and Catarratto varieties.

- You know, I wasn't a big fan of white wines until I tasted Sicilian wines. Grillo and Catarratto are truly fantastic, unique, unlike anything else. You cannot forget the taste of these wines, everything else vanishes.

- This is probably the case, because Catarratto often becomes a part of the composition of continental Italian wines. Today, the province of Trapani alone produces 10% of Italian wine, although only 20% of it is labeled as Sicilian.

- Since wine is an important component of people's culture, the history of wine probably reflects the story of this land as a whole. What would you say?

- This is fair enough. I think some of the grapes were brought by the Phoenicians in the 8th-7th century BC. Along with that, some secrets of winemaking probably arrived. It must be understood that there are many vines in Sicily, western vines differ from oriental ones. In eastern Sicily, from the VII-VI century BC, the Greek methods of viticulture "alberello" spread. Since then, wine has been produced traditionally for centuries.

Furthermore, no doubt, the Byzantine culture has made a great contribution to the development of winemaking in Sicily.

Subsequently, as an industry, winemaking also had significant events, such as the birth of Marsala wine. In 1773, the Englishman Woodhouse landed at the port of Marsala, tasted Sicilian wine and began to experiment with it, adding his secrets on how to make wine stronger, for the more northerly populations this is relevant.

Since then, Marsala wine has been a brilliant branch of winemaking. It has its own secrets of craftsmanship and wonderful properties of wine. Wine has been the main medicine for centuries, and new wine varieties have emerged. Marsala was the first DOC wine in Italian wine history. Since then, the wine has clearly stood out for its place of origin, it is so important which land and whose hands produced it.

- Does this mean that wine is a symbol of Sicilian prosperity?

- Wine is more of a witness to the development of Sicily. In the first half of the twentieth century, like all agriculture, viticulture experienced difficult times. Working with the land requires constant attention and calmness, the twentieth century with its wars did not contribute to this.

However, in the 50s of the 20th century, individual winemakers joined together in cooperatives and created large wineries. Since then, the Settesoli di Menfi Winery and the Trapani Cooperative Winery have survived. Anyone who comes to our Tourist Office in Custonaci can get to know our wine.

Since the 70s, we can speak of a rebirth of the traditions of agriculture and winemaking in Sicily. Today, the industry is made up of millions of hectolitres of wine from around 110 thousand hectares of vineyards. But despite industrial development, we keep wine as our value, transferring the energy of our heart to it.

- Thanks, Nicolò. Sicilian wine for me is the best in the world.

- Thanks, Elena, we're trying.

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