Ragusa is the most southern province of Sicily and the whole of Italy, situated in the Val di Noto. It’s a city of great tradition, dating back to Greek times, unfortunately completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1693 and completely rebuilt in a beautiful baroque style right after it. The city is now divided in Ragusa Superiore, newly built after the earthquake, and Ragusa Ibla, build on the site of Ragusa before the earthquake, and the most attractive part of the city.
Of course, there is not only Ragusa to visit. The towns of Scicli and Modica are beautiful, with much of the architecture dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. They were important towns during the historic “Reign of Two Sicilies.” Like Ragusa, many of the buidlings are in the Late Baroque style. These are the highlights, but most towns of the Val di Noto are worth visiting.
These three cities can be included in a south of Sicily tour, together with the province of Syracuse, and including Syracuse itself, Noto, where the famous Caffe’ Sicilia is located and you can try one of the best cannoli of whole Sicily, and three natural reserves on the east coast, where natural wonders meat the sea: Del Plemmirio, Cavagrande del Cassibile and Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Of course it is also a place of great wine culture, and in this case Cerasuolo di Vittoria (where Cerasuolo is a type of red color, while Vittoria is a city west of Ragusa) is the king of the surroundings and together with Etna wines they compose the top tier of nowadays Sicilian wines. Here the wine production is ancient, dating back to the 6-7th century B.C. when the greeks populated the area. The Cerasuolo di Vittoria is made with Nero d’Avola for 50-70% and Frappato for 30-50%, both of them typical sicilian red grapes. The wine produced within an even more restricted area can have the Classico addition. The birth date of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the same as the birth date of the city, when the founder of the city Vittoria Colonna Henriquez-Cabrera gifted a hectare of land to the farmers if they seed another hectare with vines. In 1974 it obtained the DOC status, and in 2005 the DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita, the highest level of classification in Italian wine).
COS and Arianna Occhipinti
Two wineries are representing the Cerasuolo and the territory they are stand on at their best: COS and Arianna Occhipinti. COS is the acronym of the surnames of the three founders: Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti e Cirino Strano. In 1980 these three young guys rented from the father of Giambattista Cilia 3,5 ha of vines grown in alberello style and the old family winery. The first vintage produced 1470 bottles, and since then they made a great job in improving year after year. In 2000 they were already using amphorae for the aging of wines, and they kept the line until this day.
Their best Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the “Delle Fontane” which in the vintage 2012 gave a great result. It was aged 18 months in big wood barrels and other 18 months in cement tanks, red ruby color, at the nose fruity notes of cherry, blackberry and currant, scents of roses and spicy touch, while on the palate is fresh, elegant and Mediterranean, with adorable tannins.
Arianna Occhipinti story is much more recent, in 2004 Arianna, niece of the Giusto Occhipinti owner of COS, bought 1 hectare on the Strada Provinciale 68 (County Road 68), the name of the county road that goes from Catania to the coast (SP68 is also the name of her entry-level wines). This is an important detail for Arianna cause she is since 2015 president of the Road of the Wine Cerasuolo di Vittoria and she really believes in the future of this wine and its territory. She studied Enology in Milan but came back to acquire that 1 hectare for the love of her land.
The winery now owns 22 hectares, mostly Nero d’Avola and Frappato, but also Albanello and Zibibbo, two local white varieties. The top-level is the Cerasuolo di Vittoria ‘Grotte Alte’, aged at least 32 months in 25-hectoliters Slavonian oak barrels. In the 2014 vintage, it has an intense ruby red color with garnet shades, at the nose is fine and fragrant, with details of sea spray, sour cherries and oriental spices while on the palate it is intense and elegant, soft and round with a persistent and salty aromatic finish. For more on Sicilian wines, you can attend a wine class! https://www.vinology.com/class/wines-of-sicily/