Sicily remains one of the most important places in the world for quality extra virgin olive oil. The island’s varied and disparate landscape contains so many regional culinary variations, yet all of them are linked through EVOO. Numerous olive cultivars are spread akimbo throughout six DOP zones, including the Biancolilla, Cerasuola, Giarraffa, Tonda Iblea, Moresca as well as the famed Nocellara Del Belice – also known in table form as the Castelvetrano olive.
Master miller Salvatore Cutrera oversees the multi-generational family production. He insists on hand harvesting when the olives are young, green and healthy. The fruit is then coddled to the mill within four hours and cold extracted using a state-of-the-art Pieralisi DMF Leopard 8. He assured me “to produce a quality oil, it is important to make every step correctly: cultivation, harvesting, milling and bottling. If one step is done incorrectly, the oil is ruined forever.”
Oils produced from early harvest Nocellara Del Belice olives tend to be fruity and vibrant, with hints of green apple skin or green tomato vine, ending with a robust, peppery finish. These oils are quite assertive when used as a finishing oil and can add to the food a pleasing zesty element, pairing well with grilled fish, pizza, eggplant parm and seafood pastas. We recommend pouring it raw on top of your favorite dish, so its flavor remains separate and distinct.
Sicily is Italy’s largest region and has approximately three hundred fifty thousand acres of land under vine, more than any other region in the country. Following the unification of Italy in 1861, co-ops and large-scale industrial factories dominated the winemaking scene, shipping most of their output to the north and other parts of Europe for blending. Slowly but surely quality increased as winemakers invested in better equipment and technology, and today Sicily boasts some very elite wine regions like Cerasuola di Vittoria, Etna, and Noto. There are many successful wineries producing limited, hand-crafted wines, and by doing so are helping to elevate Sicily’s image as a premier venue for Italian wine production. Look for producers Planeta, Di Giovanna, Graci, and Tasca d’Almerita who all produce reds and whites that are great entry points into Sicilian wine.