Italy’s white wines can best be understood as typically dry, mouth-wateringly crisp and with a delicate fruity or almond nutty character. Traditionally subservient to cuisine, their role is to refresh the palate and flatter the food, rarely to dominate.
The island of Sicilia (Sicily) is a vast and much under-rated wine region. Producing one-sixth of all Italy’s wines, it now represents keen prices and consistent quality. White varietals Grillo, Inzoli and Pinot Grigio perfectly match the local hot climate and local seafood dishes.
Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily’s triangular-shaped island is just 3 km from the toe of Italy’s boot. Clusters of luminous lemons gleam against their lush green foliage forming a garland around the island’s coastline. Greek temples, Roman sacrificial altars and a smoking volcano, all add drama to the arid landscape with its mosaic of soils – water-retaining red loam, mineral-rich black volcanic lava, brown earth, pale limestone and golden sand.
Home to Homer’s Odyssey and Ulysses, Sicily’s fertile soils have earned it the title of God’s Kitchen and the bread basket of ancient Rome. Today, vines are still planted among other crops of citrus fruits, olive groves and cereals making wine production often an artisan industry where Co-ops are important.
12% ABV – €27.99 in Dublin at 64 Wines, Glasthule and Wines on the Green, Dawson Street
A wine with the wow factor.
The smoky incense bouquet is contrasted by a sublime top note of tingling acidity in the lemon and lime sorbet flavour. An exceptional expression of Grillo.
Food friend: serve with smoked salmon, butter and hard-boiled egg whizzed into a paté and smeared on brown soda bread.
13% ABV – €21.95 at O’Brien’s nationwide
Made in the richer oak barrel aged style and still evolving.
Delicate hay and herb aromas. Earthy notes giving a sense of place as the vines are planted in the mineral-rich volcanic soils near Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna.
Attractive and subtle white pepper spice on the finish.
Food friend: try with Cajun chicken.
13% ABV – €15.85
Available at Wines Direct Shop, Mullingar; Arnott’s, Henry Street Dublin 1 and WinesDirect.ie
The pretty perfume and palate of Viognier’s apricot and Moorish musky fruits is enlivened by the Grillo’s crisp and refreshing acidity.
Food friend: enjoy with a subtle creamy curry of pork and chopped dried apricots.
12.5% ABV – €14.99 – €15.99
Available at The Drink Store, Manor Street; Jus De Vine, Portmarnock; The Vintry, Rathgar; Redmond’s, Ranelagh and Donnybrook Fair
Orange sorbet aromas follow on to a palate with deep flavours of earthy fruit notes.
Food friend: match with deep-fried calamari and garlic mayonnaise.
12% ABV – €13.99
Available at Dublin at SuperValu Rathgar, Sundrive Road and The Pavillion Shopping Centre, Swords
Floral with lemon blossom fragrance.
Delicious with layers of citrus and exotic crisp starfruit and rosewater.
Food friend: Serve with deep-fried calamari and garlic mayonnaise.
12.5% ABV – €9.99-€10.99
Available at J&C Kenny at Number 21 Off-licence Group in counties Cork and Waterford; Cappagh Stores, Galway and Shannon Knights, Shannon
Freshly peeled apple scents with good concentration of salty minerality and green apple skins with a long finish.
Food friend: Ideal with battered fish and chips – using a splash of the wine in the batter.
Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.
Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.