Sicily, Italy's most southerly region, needs little introduction. Conditions for agriculture, and viticulture in particular, are nearly perfect. The island has a climate with Mediterranean temperatures and record breaking hours of sunshine. The soils types vary from the tufaceous, lava-based terrain of Catania to the clay and calcare of Agrigento to the sandy volcanic terroirs of the islands - all of which offer excellent habitats for winegrowing. Sicily is the southern Italian region which has invested most in recent years in up-grading its wine production, with the technical support of some of the country's leading agronomists and consultant winemakers of the calibre of the legendary Giacomo Tachis. Results have not been slow in coming.
Conversion of the vineyards to quality winegrowing and the introduction of international varieties such as Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz (the latter however possibly already indigenous to the island) were the first important steps. The second stage of development has been the rediscovery of the island's local cultivars, amongst others; Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Inzolia, Grecale, Catarrato and Moscato. Currently, premium wines account for possibly only 5% of the 10 million hectolitres produced annually, but this percentage is destined to grow thanks to the enthusiastic reception that the quality renaissance in Sicily has received from the international market.