The history of wine in Sicily

It was the Phoenicians who brought this esteemed drink in the Mediterranean area
and , of course , in Sicily, too.
The finding of the so-called “ampelidi” vines at the slopes of Mount Etna and in the Agrigento area proves the existence of wild vines as a part of the Mediterranean flora back to the Tertiary.

When the Greek settled in the island (VIII B.C.), they found a fertile humus in Sicily for their oenological culture. During the 500 years of their permanence on the island, spent in harmony with its inhabitants, they changed the habits of the Sicilians, who became skilled not only in the cultivation of vines, but also in the cultivation of the olive and in the growing of wheat.

Under the Romans (III B.C.),the cultivation of vines, although in restricted areas, was quite important and the “Malvasia” of the Eolian islands, the “Pollio” of Syracuse, the”Mamertino” of Messina were exported and appreciated in all the Latin world.

With the advent of Christianity many Sicilian lands were owned by the Church and the cultivation of vines was preserved.

With the invasion of the barbarians ( V A.D.) the production halted, but in 535 A.D. the Byzantine Belisario allowed the Sicilians to devote themselves to agriculture again.

In 827 the Muslim invaders, according to the Koran, stopped the production of wine but they never forbade it entirely so that the production of esteemed eating grapes, like the “Moscato d’Alessandria (Zibibbo)” of the Pantelleria island increased.

With the Normans, who arrived on the island in 1601, the viticulture was brought back to life until Carlo d’Angiò in 1266 induced people not to plant vines any more because of exaggerated taxations.

With the Aragonese agriculture and cultivation of vines developed immensely; but it’s since 1773 that the production of wine in Sicily has recorded a veritable “ boom ” thanks to the commercialization on an industrial scale of Marsala wines with the English Woodhouse. In 1880-81 a terrible epidemic of phylloxera reduced the cultivated area of the island from 320.000 hectares to 175.000 hectares causing a serious economic disaster.

It has been necessary to replant European vines grafted on the immune American stump coming from a nursery created in Palermo in order to face the emergency.
The first real fruits grew up only around 1920, with the realization of “portainnesti” called “siciliani”, but the advent of Fascism in Italy and the bureaucratic slowness in the expropriation to big landowners, blocked the launching of the vine-growing sector.
At the end of World War II, and more specifically in the decade 1950-60, with the failure of the agricultural reform a lot of peasants abandoned their fields definitively to move to the industrial areas in the North, but the establishment of the first cooperative stores allowed those who remained to get on their feet again.
The establishment of the European Common Market in 1970, the following flow of the wines of the island towards France, the improvement of cultivation techniques with the use of mechanization and a clever activity of requalification of Sicilian wine has roused enthusiasm, new productive activities have been founded, new DOC and the start has been given to what is now called "the Sicilian miracle".

Italian version

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