Sticking to the “Sicily only” section of the (many, many) winelists in Taormina was no problem. More and more of the wineries on the island are avoiding international grapes and overoaked methodologies to focus on the best of the native (give or take two thousand years) Sicilian varieties: nero d’avola, nerello macalese, inzolia, and cattaratto, to name just a few. These are tangy, citrusy whites and deep, earthy, somewhat acidic and often cherry-dominated reds. They’re great food wines. I also tried out the almond wine made by a few different producers there; it’s yummy, sherry-colored and sweet (most people really like sweet wine, though they pretend they don’t). Sure, there are Sicilian wineries making some great cabernets and chardonnays, but I didn’t bother. Which works well in Sicily.
But imagine if I was presented with a native grape section at any restaurant in America, featuring wines made from vitis labrusca grapes such as Concord, Niagara, Norton, and Catawba. Grape juice, fine. Wine? I don’t think so. Though a lot of wineries in America are using these grapes with perfectly acceptable results, most of us are thanking heaven for such pioneers as Dr. Konstantin Frank in New York and Wendt and Gallo in California, who focused on the great vitis vinifera varietals.
When it comes to wine, native can mean a lot (in Sicily) or nothing (in Buffalo).