Wine Pairing and Grilling in Sicily  

In early prehistoric times our ancestors used fire to keep warm, for light and for protection from wild animals; when by accident or as a result of a forest fire it was realized that game, nuts, and roots tasted better when burnt, cooking was discovered. Soon, using leaves, stones and other techniques a rudimental form of grilling or broiling was invented and used all over the world to present times.  

Cooking with heat under the grill, broiling or roasting by exposing the food to direct heat either above or below the heat, is called in Italian grigliare or cuocere a fuoco vivo, alla brace o alla carbonella, small pieces of charcoal.  

In the United States the barbecuing is associated with cooking over high heat and the use of various sauces; in particular in the south of the U. S., barbecuing is a delicious and unique style of cooking, not well known in Italy, and an exceptional gastronomic experience made of extraordinary sauces, smoke and the best meat in the world.  

In Sicily grilling is well liked because this method of cooking does not change the original taste of the food, fish or meat, and enhances its flavor: the only sauce used is the salmoriglio sauce made with fresh olive oil, lemon, oregano, black pepper, parsley, a light touch of garlic and salt.  

This sauce when baking, barbecuing or grilling adds aroma and prevents the food from drying out.  

Grigliata mista di Carne, mixed grilled meats is a popular and traditional fare in Sicilian cooking.  

In the homes grilling is usually done on a heavy metal grate set over a heat source. Typically in the hinterland the source of heat are hot coals topped with a grill and sometimes a spit.  

Years back in Sicily cows were used to work the field and were butchered when they were too old to plow the ground, resulting in a tough and muscular meat that could be eaten boiled or chopped. This is the reason that Sicilian cuisine is loaded with meat loafs, meat balls and stews.  

Barbecued or grilled beef is not preferred and the favorite grilled meat varies according to location, mostly pork,lamb, chicken and game.  

In the Western area of Sicilywhich includes theprovince of Palermo , Trapani and Agrigento , the preferred meat is pork, lamb, and young wethers, u castratu. Game, pork, lamb, chicken and veal are popular in the hinterland and in the rest of the Island .  

Grilled meats pair well with red wines. Every town offers a large selection of wines made from indigenous grape varieties that are ideal accompaniments to any meat dish. 

The following are a few Sicilian wines, from an incredible selection:  

The ruby red Corvo di Salaparuta, made with Nero di Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Pignatello grapes, is a selected and acceptable wine for grilled meat, roasts and young cheeses. It is dry, well balanced and rich with aroma of sour cherries; an elegant wine with good taste and round tannins.  

Rosso D’Alcamo DOC is made with 60% of Nero di Avola, and a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and other grapes: it offers flavors of berries and cherries, along with hints of spices and herbs. The alcohol content is under 12 per cent, which makes this medium bodied red wine a pleasure to drink and an ideal companion to grilled pork, lamb, chicken and wethers.  

Regaleali makes a Nero di Avola recommended with grilled meats, spicy and aged cheeses or game. It is an intensive ruby red wine, with a delicate bouquet; it is dry with silky tannins and a long finish.  

In the Eastern part of Sicily, where the land has a lot of streams and marsh, rabbits are abundant and with lamb and pork are chosen meats for grilling. 

In the central zone, fowl and small edible animals are the most favorite grilling meats; there the surroundings are ideal for hunting and game is abundant. Pigs, lamb and chickens are popular in the countryside where they could roam in search of fodder and supply the farmers with milk and eggs and meat used in tasty grigliate on the open fire for special occasions.  


Eastern Sicily offers many wines to pair with grilled meats:  

Etna Rosso is a wine produced in the slopes of Mount Etna; a hearty wine with unique and delicate aromas, with soft accents of tannin, making it an ideal wine to pair with strong tasting cheeses, hearty sauces, stews, sausages or grilled meats.  

Etna Rosso wine is distinguished for its rich flavor of dry fruits and spices, and for its palate of ripe red fruits, chocolate and leather.  

Faro Rosso DOC is produced in small quantities at the foot of the Etna in the province of Messina, it is an elegant wine, refreshing and tasteful.  

Cerasuolo di Vittoria was produced for the first time around the time in which the village of Vittoria was established, by blending Frappato and Nero di Avola and small quantities of Nerello Mascalese and Grosso Nero.  

This exceptionally smooth and balanced wine, offers aroma of ripe fruits and hints of Mediterranean herbs; it is called Cerasuolo, from “cerase”(Sicilian for cherry) for the intense red color similar to the cherries.  

Nero di Avola wine marries well with grilled meat, pasta in red sauces, hearty game, meat dishes or strong flavored cheeses. This medium bodied wine is dry, robust and well balanced, it is dense in the mouth, offers an intriguing aroma of wild raspberries and black cherries with a light spicy finish.  

Frappato is a light bodied Sicilian wine with notes of strawberry and raspberry and hints of herbs, black tea and minerals.  

This smooth and silky wine makes it an easy drinking choice to enjoy as aperitif or to pair with cheeses, salads, grilled meats or vegetables and fish.  

Merlot Sicilia- Tenuta Principi di Butera- Caltanissetta. Splendid red pomegranate color wine with notes of cherries, cassis, and mulberries blended with the pleasant aroma of vanilla. The taste of raspberries and spices and the light tannin on the finish, makes this soft and medium bodied wine a good choice to match with duck, chicken, pork, pasta dishes or mixed grilled meats.