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New sustainability drive and HQ announced at ‘virtual’ Sicilia EP event

Published:  20 May, 2020

As Italy began its cautious lifting of lockdown, the annual Sicilia En Primeur event took the form of a virtual global webinar late last week, where organiser Assovini presented to many of those that would have attended the planned conference in Cefalù.

Assovini board member Alessio Planeta announced plans for a Sicily Foundation for Sustainability to put “the bell tower of sustainability at the centre of the village”, outlining the “enormous competitive advantage” that Sicily would reap by placing environmental and social best practise at the heart of its winemaking.

Planeta also highlighted the recent opening of a new Assovini HQ, close to Palermo airport, which also has a public tasting room intended to provide “an ideal starting point” for tourists to explore Sicily’s vinous diversity and organise wine tours.

The organisation, which represents over 90 producers, accounting for nine out of 10 bottles produced in Sicily, has been involved in a drive to raise global awareness of premium Sicilian wines, with emphasis on bottled over bulk, underpinned by the introduction of an island-wide Sicilia DOC, effective from the 2012 harvest.

Antonio Rallo of Donnafugata Wineries and Assovini president elaborated on the role that Sicilia DOC had played in working towards that aim.

“The mission of Sicilia DOC is to bring together all the producers of the region and increase the reputation of our wines all over the world,” he said.

“Today Sicilia DOC has more than 460 wineries bottling, almost 25,000 hectares and more than 8,354 wineries. The grape varieties that have grown most [during 2019] compared to 2018 are Nero d'Avola at 27%, Grillo at 13%, Zibibbo at 17%, Lucido at 13% and Inzolia at 8%.”

And while bottlings of Sicilia DOC in the first four months of 2020 – leading into the coronavirus crisis – were down 11%, this he said “compared favourably” with the estimated 35-40% volume drop in Italian wines drop in volumes during the country-wide lockdown.

Rallo added that reds were down 8%, with flagship red variety Nero d'Avola down 5%, while white wines lost 17% in volume, with lead white Grillo down13%.

During 2019 the trend of bottled wines from other Sicilian denominations continued to grow at 11% over 2018.