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WineCountry.it - Sicily Wine Region Italy

Sicily:
Articles

Sicily en Primeur
Rosa D'Ancona - March 22, 2005

"A harvest in between very good and excellent, with five stars assigned to white wines and four stars to  the red". These are the ratings achieved by Sicily's 2004 harvest during the 'Sicilia en Primeur', organized in Palermo on March 12 by Assovini Sicilia (Sicilian Winemaker Association), that includes all the major island's wine producers. Over 100 journalists from 26 countries participated in the event.

  Professor Attilio Scienza
  Professor Attilio Scienza
  Sicilia en premeur
  Lucio Tasca D'Almerita (left) and Massimo Breganze di Banca Nuova (New Bank)
  Andrea Gabbrielli - Innocenzo Leontini
  Andrea Gabbrielli (left) and Innocenzo Leontini
  Photographs by Melchiorre Di Maria
   

Professor Attilio Scienza, teacher of vitivinicolture at the Statale University, in Milan, was invited to comment on such results.  He said that the harvest of 2004 was "more than the Mediterranean sound of the Cavalleria Rusticana overture, as it reveals the original, romantic, joyous nature of Mahler's First Symphony."

A series of different conditions contributed to such a special harvest.

"The vines, which were very weak because of the 2003 dry spell – explains Professor Scienza – followed a slower maturation than usual. On top of this, the weather conditions of 2004, with more rain and lower temperature than usual, contributed to the accumulation of coloring components and aromas in grapes, as well as their structure. Though there are differences between the various grape varieties and from the vineyard location – continues Scienza - we can say that the 2004 (Sicilian) white wines show an unusual aromatic, fine freshness, which will evolve positively in the bottle for quite a long time. The sensorial profile of the red wines though, is possibly more impressive. The wines are different than the ones usually produced on the Island which, because of extreme climate situations, in recent years showed great concentration of color and structure, though they tended to be kind of flat to the palate and with less characteristic taste of ripe fruits, plums and licorice. At times the tannins were a little too reactive and some wines showed inclination to tarnish. The 2004 harvest, on the other hand, delivered wines with good poliphenol content, soft tannins with sweet notes but, overall, extremely elegant."

Sicilian Vitivinicolture In Numbers
In addition to assigning ratings to the 2004 harvest, the event organized by Assovini Sicilia provided an important opportunity to draw the bottom line for the Sicilian wine producing industry.

Currently, this sector produces the 20% of the island's products sold, generates six millions working days per year and involves an area of about 138,000 hectares (about 340.993 acres), with a production of about 1 million metric tons of grapes, for a total of 7 million hectoliters (about 185 million gallons) of wine.

"The enormous potential of the island's enology – said Innocenzo Leontini, regional agriculture councilor – pushed the region to set up a complex strategy that bridges vitivinicolture and other productive sectors in three main directions: quality improvement of grapes and wines; innovation, research and added value to the whole wine production project; and enogastronomy marketing and tourism.

The export data were very impressive as well, marking for the first time higher value of exported bottled wine over the bulk wine sold. In the five years between 1999 and 2003, the value of bottled wines was €48.6 million, compared to €37.3 million for bulk wines, in spite of the huge difference in quantity sold, or 96,100 hectoliters (about 2,539 gallons, or about 107,000, 12-bottle cases), against 1,051 million hectoliters (about 27.77 million gallons) of bulk wine. Most of the bulk export went to EU countries with yearly percentage that ranges from 91% to 99% in the five-year period in question. The bottled wine average price was €2.90 per liter, and generated sales of 196,200 hectoliters (about5.8 million gallons) for a total of €56.1 million. In this case as well, the main importer were EU countries, that absorbed 67.2% of all exported bottles. Second is North America with 13.6%, followed by other European countries with 6%, and East Asia with 4.4%.

"These results – said Assovini Sicilia President, Lucio Tasca D’Almerita – were achieved thanks to a comprehensive strategy that made Sicilian wine the worldwide ambassador of the island. A new way to face exports that generated synergies between the public administrations and private industry in various production areas, especially agriculture."

With regards to production of IGT and DOC wines, 2003 production was 365,563 hectoliters, with average production over the five-year period of 239,000 hectoliters, or 1.8% of the national production. In addition, between 1997 and 2001, the DOC designated area grew from 20% to 53.8% of the total vineyards acreage.

Though growing, the DOC production is still low in Sicily.

"The actual DOC production – said Assovini Sicilia councilor, Franco Pisa - is but 2.6% of the total. Our next challenge is to substantiate the role of the denominations, with almost untouched hidden potential."

Collateral Events
Though ratings and conventions about the state of the industry were the main focus of 'Sicilia en primeur', the organizers set up several collateral events including:

  • Presentation of "Sicilia, l’Isola del Vino (Sicily, the Wine Island), a book from Antonio Buttitta, Cultural Anthropology professor at Palermo University. The book talks about mythical wine stories and was strongly requested by Assovini.
  • Journalistic prize entitled 'Il buono della Sicilia' ('The Good of Sicily'). Monica Larner, US journalist with the Wine Enthusiast magazine, and Isao Miyajiama, Japanese journalist with the monthly Vinoteque, won the prize assigned by Assovini.

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