Five island wine regions to visit
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A recent discovery of Copper Age pots in Sicilian caves found wine traces dating back to the fourth millennium BC, making the island home to the earliest evidence of winemaking in Italy. Today it’s still a symbol of classic southern Italian wine, capable of producing rich and powerful wine styles. Pay a visit to the fertile slopes of Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano. It’s here that some of Sicily’s most famous wines are made in the Etna DOC, primarily reds from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes. You can wander down to Planeta’s winery on the north side of the volcano, built in a natural lava flow from 1566 and listed as one of Sicily’s top estates by Simon Woolf in his Regional profile on Etna.
Nearest airport Catania Fontanarossa Airport
Santorini is famous the world over for its whitewashed towns, cascading down hillsides towards the blue Aegean. It’s celebrated among those who know for its beautiful wines, particularly those made from the island’s indigenous grapes — white Assyrtiko and red Mavrotrgano. The former accounts for 65% of the Santorini’s vines, grown in volcanic soils on the Caldera cliffs.
When you’re not on the beach or among the vines, you can explore a 300 metre-long underground labyrinth of 19th century cellars, aka the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum. In his Decanter travel guide to Santorini, Greek wine expert Nico Manessis recommends a trip to Domaine Sigalas, a boutique winery in the north of the island, renowned for its bone-dry whites. Best enjoyed at sunset, with freshly caught seafood.
Nearest airport Thira
A little further afield, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, attracting sun seekers all year round with its equatorial climate. But oenophiles know it for its complex and distinctive indigenous wines, born from ancient volcanic soils. It’s home to Teide, the highest mountain in Spain. Snow-capped at its summit, its slopes give way to the lush green Valle de la Orotava, prime vine-growing country.
Being an island, Tenerife managed to escape phylloxera and top producer Suertes del Marqués boasts vineyards that are over a century old. Its red and white wines are made from local grapes and receive minimal intervention, says wine writer Tom Cannavan in his producer profile.
Nearest airport Tenerife Norte
This French island has a winemaking history going back two millennia, and today the vines still thrive in nine designated regions, with most of its wine made in the Île de Beauté IGP. This ‘island of beauty’ is also referred to by the French appellation body as the land of ‘legends and magic’, which builds a picture of how Corsica is nationally regarded.
For visitors, untouched green valleys, wild mountains and secluded sandy beaches await. In his Decanter guide to Corsica’s wineries, Stephen Brook recommends a visit to Domaine d’Alzipratu in the northwest, where you can try one of the island’s top wines Nielluccio, made from old vines and aged in concrete eggs.
Nearest airport Calvi
Travel 11km south from Corsica and you reach its beautiful Italian cousin, Sardinia, an island of unspoilt craggy coastlines, ancient culture, sumptuous delicacies — and great wine. Vermentino has been cultivated here since the 14th century, and has its own DOCG in Gallura, where it wrestles with the Mistral wind and tough terrain.
In her Decanter travel guide to Sardinia, wine writer Carla Capalbo recommends a boat trip to Isola della Maddalena national park, an archipelago of mostly uninhabited islands. Highlights include the pink beach made from fossils.