Can Sicily’s new toy deliver?15th October, 2012 by Patrick Schmitt
Sicilian wine producers are hoping to improve awareness of their unique island with the new DOC Sicilia which can be used from this year’s harvest.
As the grapes hit the presses last month, Diego Planeta, former president of the island’s largest cooperative, Cantine Settesoli, and father of Francesca – who founded the Planeta winery with her cousin Alessio – spoke of his belief in the new island-wide DOC.
“With the new toy of DOC Sicilia we will be able to put together group of people who will row in the right direction,” he told the drinks business at the beginning of the month.
He said that the new DOC Sicilia had spawned the Consorzio Vini DOC Sicilia – headed by Antonio Rallo of Donnafugata – which would be used to raise funds for marketing campaigns in key export markets.
“I am hoping that a tax on each bottle sold [under DOC Sicilia] will give us enough money to amass campaigns abroad,” he said.
He also commented that the new DOC would give “more control”, while recording that market research had already begun in Germany, Switzerland and the USA into the strengths and weaknesses of Sicily’s image.
Such information he said would be used to help hone Sicily’s attempts to create a clear identity for itself among wine consumers.
However, Diego acknowledged flaws in the DOC, which at present doesn’t require producers to bottle within the island.
As previously reported by the drinks business, DOC rules stopped short of preventing wines labelled DOC Sicilia from being bottled outside Sicily.
Diego attributed this decision to the large amount of wine shipped in bulk from the island, as well as the influence of bottlers on the mainland.
Bulk wine he said represented almost 1.7 million hectolitres of wine, compared to a total 4.2m hl produced annually on the island.
“Many of the cooperatives bottle wine elsewhere,” he said, “And we lost the battle about bottling in Sicily because the lobby in Rome is much stronger than Sicily,” he admitted.
“But I prefer to at least achieve the first step,” he stated, referring to the advent of DOC Sicilia.
Meanwhile, consultant and winemaker at Settesoli, Owen Bird, expressed his frustration at the lax DOC rules, stating that bottling outside the region had “buggered Frascati”, while enforcing it, “had saved Soave”.
Currently around 2.5m hl of wine is bottled as IGT Sicilia, which will now become either DOC Sicilia or IGT Terre Siciliane.
Diego also pointed out that after two years of subsidised green harvests on the island from 2010 to 2011, Sicily’s wine production has now tipped from excess to a small shortage.
He also said that the average price paid for a litre of wine has now hit 60 cents, up from 20-24 cents two years ago, and hence, winemaking on the island “was starting to be sustainable”.
Furthermore, stressing the value of existing DOCs, he said Etna, Noto and the island’s only DOCG – Cerasuolo di Vittoria – were the best known and respected, but would still benefit from DOC Sicilia.
“The future is the big hat of Sicily and under that different areas where you get very different wines.”
Concluding, he commented, “The basic problem with Sicily is that Sicily is not a category and it needs to become one.”