Small islands, great wines
Not just Sicily and Sardinia, but virtually every small Italian island is related to the world of wine, through a specific kind of wine or a local grape variety. Spectacular landscapes of terraced hillsides, stone walls, working donkeys, and bush-trained vines with amazing views of the Mediterranean sea offer a wide range of wines to discover. Traditional hand-crafted wines, produced with hard work, perseverance and heroism; winemaking which ignores simple economics, and focuses on the pure pleasure of wine.
In an atlas or an online map you can hardly even see them. But by zooming in and looking at them close-up, they turn out to be a treasure chest of local food and wine products. These are the smaller Italian islands. Magnificent areas with amazing scenery, must-see tourist destinations, in which sun, sea, volcanoes and limestone produce rare and valuable wines, which are lively, summery, but also profound, sweet and complex. This is our slow journey through the great wines of our small islands!
Located at different latitudes, the islands enjoy different winemaking characteristics too. Just as with the mainland, these small Italian islands display a wonderful natural heritage with an incredibly diverse typicity. Their isolation from each other and other wine regions has also helped maintain local grape varieties which would have disappeared under different circumstances. The heroic and tenacious vine-growers devote all their time and energy to maintaining these vines, and to the upkeep and restoration of the traditional landscape of terraces and dry stone walls which would have fallen into disrepair otherwise.
Many islands with volcanic origins, such as the Aeolian Islands, Pantelleria, and Ischia produce very mineral wines. Others have different soil types, like some of the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago with areas of clay, loam, or sandstone which create wines with a good body and sharp aromas. Of course, the main feature all the islands and wines share is the sea, and the sea breeze. Never-ending days of sun, a taste of salt and iodine, and aromas of scrub, wild herbs, and unique shrubs. In general, it is this Mediterranean personality which all these wines share; wines which best describe Italy with the historic sincerity of its rural aristocracy.
Pantelleria, the Aeolian Islands, the Aegadian Islands: around Sicily, the kingdom of Passito wines
Pantelleria, a volcanic island of wind-swept hollows where the ancient Zibibbo vines are cultivated using traditional methods classified as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Locally made Passito wines are a perfect example for all the world to enjoy the excellence of this Italian wine. The Aeolian Islands – Salina, Lipari, Vulcano, Panarea and others – are home to wonderful wines made from dried Malvasia grapes growing among the landscape of volcanic craters and black sand beaches. A dreamy mineral grape, it makes for wonderfully tasty and slightly aromatic white wines, perfect for hot summers. Favignana, one of the Aegadian Islands, is ideal for the classic grape varieties of western Sicily, with flavours of tuna, salt, the sea, and more sea. Other winemaking isles included Ustica and Mozia, both near Sicily too. It comes as no surprise that the same kinds of wines the Phoenicians used to make here are now some of the most loved white wines in Italy.
Ischia and Capri: volcanic wonders in the Gulf of Naples
The hillsides of Ischia, the largest of the islands off the coast of Naples, have old terraces constructed with greenish, sulphurous mineral-rich rocks where the marvellous Biancolella grape is cultivated. A grape variety which gives body, minerality and ageing potential to the local award-winning wines. Splendid wines are also produced from grapes, growing on incredibly steep slopes on Capri, far away from the areas where the rich and famous flock to visit the island. Wines enjoyed ever since Roman times; red and white wines which taste of Mediterranean scrubland and coastal flowers with hints of iodine.
The Tuscan Archipelago: islands with a history of wine
The string of islands which now form part of a marine National Park were used as, and some still are, centres for imprisonment and confinement. They also offer an ideal landscape for winemaking. Nowadays access to the islands is easier, and cultivation techniques have been modernized. Vine growers have restored dry stone walls in old vineyards, preserving part of a splendid winemaking heritage. Classic Italian wines, rosés or passitos, made from Vermentino, the typical Ansonica, or amazing Aleatico grapes are the perfect way to get to know the more well-known winemaking isles of Elba or Giglio, as well as smaller isles like Gorgona and Capraia.
Ponza: Italian miracles
Italian miracles. On Ponza Island, no more than ten volcanic square kilometres off the coast of Terracina and Gaeta, wine is produced. And it’s good. Emanuele Vittorio and Luca Sabino lovingly look after some heroic vineyards in Punta Fieno. Manual operation and modern vinification for a splendid range, but only 11,000 bottles a year . The local vines derive from Ischia and here they express incredible minerality and sapidity. The Fieno Bianco stands out: hints of sage, broom, chalk, papaya. And it has a persistence beyond all expectations.