Sicily rediscovers six indigenous grape varieties previously thought to be extinct

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

09 January 2019

Six indigenous Sicilian winegrapes previously deemed lost have been rediscovered and added to the Italian National Register of Grape VarietiesThe six grapes are the reds Inzolia Nera, Lucignola, Orisi, Usirioto and Vitrarolo, and the white Recunu.

Inzolia Nera
Red – A cross of Sangiovese and an unknown variety, currently cultivated sparsely around the city of Trapani. It produces red wines with little colour, a light body and a spicy nose.Lucignola
Red – A cross of Sangiovese and an unknown variety. Rediscovered in the Nebrodi Mountains. It results in high-alcohol and high-acidity wines.

Red – A cross of Sangiovese and Montonico Bianco. Rediscovered in the Nebrodi mountains. It results in tannic, medium-alcohol and high-acidity wines.

Red – No information on its parentage currently available. Rediscovered in the Nebrodi mountains. Resulting wines have medium alcohol, little colour and scents of red fruits and spices.

Red – Rediscovered in the Nebrodi mountains. The name originates from the Sicilian word for glass (vitru), as the stalks assume a glass-like appearance in the winter and break easily. It gives wines with a deep ruby colour, high alcohol, high tannins, and a nose of spices and ripe red fruits.

White – Found around Mount Etna and around the city of Messina. It is naturally high in acid.

‘It’s an extremely significant achievement for the protection of the Sicilian viticultural heritage,’ commented Edgardo Bandiera of the Sicilian Council of Agriculture.

‘This has been possible thanks to the work undertaken by the region’s technicians. They researched historical grape varieties in marginal viticultural areas of the Madonie and Nebrodi mountain ranges, as well as private gardens across the whole of Sicily, where people have been cultivating vines for home winemaking for centuries.’

The addition to the register is the result of a 15-year research project led by the Marsala branch of the University of Palermo in collaboration with Marsala's winegrowers, such as Gemma Spano Bresina, and growers across the larger region.

Winegrower Stefano Girelli, who presented his wines to the UK on-trade last October, was another of the participating parties. He is now experimenting with 8,000 vines of the high-acidity, tannic Orisi grape at his Santa Teresa estate.

Sicily is an increasingly popular wine-producing region, a development assisted by high-quality wines made with indigenous varieties such as Nerello Mascarese and Carricante on Mount Etna. The addition of these six historical grape vines to the National Register is a sign that the island is actively investing in its own viticultural heritage and in fostering its image as a top wine-producing region.

The University of Palermo is currently studying over four thousand indigenous grape varieties – some of which could be added to the National Register in the future.


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