Consorzio Collio 2024 (175x100)

Sicilian wine, “singular and plural”, after its “Renaissance”, wants to “cultivate the future”

The message of “Sicilia en Primeur” No. 20 in the 25th anniversary of Assovini Sicilia

In Sicily, one can speak of a “Renaissance” of viticulture, in doing business, but also of the image, the result of a “miracle” of this island and of “sicilitudine”, as Leonardo Sciascia put it: the ability of entrepreneurs to look far ahead, not to be selfish, but to have a common vision that unites in diversity. A vision that, in the 1990s, inspired the “enlightened” ideas and synergic action of Diego Planeta, Giacomo Rallo and Lucio Tasca, the three “tenors” creators of the rebirth of Sicilian wine, and that, passed down between generations, for 25 years, continues to inspire the 100 wineries in Assovini Sicilia, which are telling their stories these days with their wines at “Sicilia en Primeur” 2024, in Cefalù. The choices that have inspired the “Renaissance” of Sicilian wine, which have been collective, the result of a contamination of ideas as different as the sea and the volcano, but which on this island come together, and which is reflected in the wines, where native and international grape varieties meet, and of a mentality open to dialogue, once between peoples and cultures, today between the ancient feud and the contemporary resort, have been the real strength of Sicily. Which, for the future, must aim to increase the value of wines, reflecting their growing quality and the true essence of the territories, real added value and increasing attractors of tourism, as an expression of biodiversity, culture and beauty, which are breathed and shared in the all-Sicilian joy of living. This is what makes tourists feel welcome and involved in the many “worlds” of Sicily. This is what today’s youth, above all, seek.
If Sicily has been the absolute protagonist of a true “Renaissance” of wine, then, as told by WineNews director Alessandro Regoli (his full speech in the focus) - at the table together with colleagues such as Monica Larner of “The Wine Advocate”, and producers such as Alessio Planeta, Alberto Tasca and Antonio Rallo, among others - it is thanks to enlightened entrepreneurship that has been able to look far ahead and make a team. A team, that of Assovini, whose member companies produce 900 labels from which more than 80% of the value of bottled Sicilian wine is generated. 99% of the companies produce DOC (denomination of controlled origin) wines, while exports account for more than 50% of sales, reaching, in some cases, more than 100 countries.
It is the European market, with 98.6% of exports, the first outlet for Sicilian wines, followed by North American, English, Japanese, Chinese and Australian markets. Moreover, while the market rewards Sicilian wines, especially whites, as we have already recounted, businesses are able to look to the future, with generational transition in family businesses showing a proactive picture, with 78% having already integrated a new generation under 40 in management.
And it was precisely “Cultivating the future”, not by chance, that was the claim chosen for “Sicilia en Primeur” 2024, in drawing a balance of a double anniversary, the 20 years since the birth of the format of the preview, the first traveling one, and the first 25 years of Assovini Sicilia, protagonist and witness of the Sicilian wine “Renaissance”. It was 1998 when Diego Planeta, Lucio Tasca and Giacomo Rallo, signed the founding act of Assovini Sicilia. Espousing that far-sighted, courageous, revolutionary vision, which believed in associationism as a winning strategy to promote Sicily, were eight wineries, the first to join the association. After a quarter of a century, Assovini Sicilia has 100 members, 47.6 million bottles produced by 2023, 83% of DOC wines and 11,000 hectares under cultivation out of the more than 95,760 vines planted throughout the island, the second “vineyard of Italy” and the first in terms of organic acreage. And, today, it can be said beyond any doubt that the dream of the “founding fathers” of attributing a cultural, promotional and storytelling value to Sicilian wine is fully realized.
The strong wind of change and evolution continues to blow on Assovini Sicilia, which, driven by the spirit of teamwork and system, has in recent years become a beacon in the wine scene, demonstrating not only that in Sicily wine production is of quality, the managerial profile of companies is competitive, and wine is a cultural ambassador to the world, but that Sicily that knows how to team up is a winner. “I am proud to represent an association that has always conveyed and promoted a contemporary image of Sicily, linked to traditions, dynamic, and elegant”, commented Mariangela Cambria, president of Assovini Sicilia, “thanks to the courage of those who believed in associationism, defying all cultural resistance and putting themselves on the line without protagonism, believing in teamwork, making sure that, today, Sicily in the world is a brand with a powerful and profound cultural value and international appeal. Assovini Sicilia was born from a vision and planning that pushed the island towards new horizons, made it known in the world for its beauty, for its history. A story whose telling has been entrusted to the narrative and symbolic power of wine. The great revolution of Assovini Sicilia has been that of having believed in wine as a cultural product, with extraordinary and unique potential, before being economic”. The narrative of these extraordinary 25 years, declined in multiple themes - the evolution of the vineyard, the cultural value of wine, the perception in the U.S. market, wine tourism and the Next Generation - was at the heart of the conference “Cultivating the Future”, moderated by historic journalist Gioacchino Bonsignore of Tg5 Mediaset, curator of the “Gusto” and “Gusto DiVino” columns, in the monumental complex of San Domenico in Cefalù, which traced the history of Assovini Sicilia’s associationism through the testimonies of those who have supported the association’s vision and path in recent years.
“It is a bit like what happened to the Italian language: it was born in Dante’s Florence, in the 14th century, but the forerunner is the Sicilian School of the court of the “Stupor Mundi”, Frederick II of Swabia, in the 13th century”, pointed out Alessandro Regoli, director of WineNews. “Anteprime” (“Previews”) were born in the 1990s in Tuscany, but it is “Sicilia en Primeur” with its itinerant formula from the beginning, two decades ago, that has laid the foundations of contemporary communication, in which wine does not only show itself in the glass, but becomes the “medium” to tell the beauty of the territories that make Sicily a real wine “continent”. Because this was the idea of Sicily’s “Renaissance” of wine, which was in viticulture and in doing business, but also in image, and the fruit of what is the real “miracle” of this island: the ability of entrepreneurs to look far ahead, not to be selfish, but to have a common vision that unites in diversity, which inspired the three “tenors” of Sicilian wine, Diego Planeta, Giacomo Rallo and Lucio Tasca, and which today inspires the hundred wineries of Assovini”. With Assovini Sicilia, the island has crossed borders by landing in markets around the world. Speaking of history, culture and values are the producers’ labels with their quality. All are aiming for export: Europe is confirmed as the main export market, for 95.7% of the companies, followed by North America. “I have witnessed firsthand the “Renaissance” of Sicilian wine these past 20 years, and writing about the wines of Sicily has given me some of the most rewarding professional moments. I believe I am part of that small group of colleagues who have participated in every edition of Assovini Sicilia’s “Sicilia en Primeur” since the beginning. This important context has confirmed my deep conviction that the bright future of Italian wine begins here, in Sicily, in the heart of the Mediterranean. I would like to present Sicily as a contemporary way of seeing Italian wine thanks to the genetic material (the native grapes) that will surely be an important tool as we face climate change. I would also like to personally recount how important Sicilian wine has been to me in terms of understanding the broader world of Italian wine”, said Monica Larner, Italian Reviewer for “The Wine Advocate - Robert Parker”.
Alessio Planeta, Giacomo Rallo and Alberto Tasca, sons of the founders, have picked up the baton and carried on the initial design of teamwork that laid the foundation for the successful “wine system” of Assovini Sicilia. “My experience in both organizations, as the son of one of the founders and in my current capacity as president of the Consorzio di Tutela Doc Sicilia, has created in me the conviction that collaborating and sharing common goals is essential to effectively promote our extraordinary wine heritage. Therefore, associationism for me has been and continues to be a successful path, fully embodying the spirit of collaboration and commitment to excellence that characterizes Sicilian viticulture”, said Antonio Rallo, president of Consorzio Doc Sicilia and at the helm of Donnafugata. Alessio Planeta, CEO and president Planeta Winery, defined the time and historical arc of the Sicilian vineyard through three emblematic eras: the enchantment of the past, the fervor of the 1980s and the vitality of the new Millennium: “each phase tells a story, interwoven with numbers, trends and varieties that reflect our commitment to the future. It is not just an exercise in reflection, but a bridge to tomorrow, shaped by family experience and innovation. In a world where we export to 75 markets, operating in five different Sicilian regions, we rely on the wisdom of our predecessors, like my uncle Diego Planeta, and our vision”. In these 25 years, Assovini Sicilia’s ability has been to innovate and renew itself, embracing the spirit of the times as the new frontiers of green and also contributing to the birth of the SOStain Sicilia Foundation.
“The experience of the SOStain Foundation integrates and fits perfectly into the associationism of Assovini Sicilia. And so it is that, continuing in the wake of the positive experience of associationism taught to us by Assovini, the SOStain Sicilia Foundation was born in 2020, whose goal is to accompany wineries toward measuring the impact their actions have on the ecosystem. As many as 43 Sicilian wineries have joined the SOStain Sicilia Foundation to date, and by networking, they are confronting each other on different issues using the contradictory no longer as a stance, but as mutual growth”, added Alberto Tasca, president of the SOStain Sicilia Foundation and Tasca d’Almerita.
Not only quality production, promotion abroad, Assovini Sicilia has also won the bet on wine tourism as a tool for telling the story of the territory and the historical and wine heritage. Today, 84.8% of member companies have implemented in their wineries a series of wine tourism services that are true wine experiences, contributing to the evolution of the wine tourism offer, which from simple tasting has become a part of experiential tourism. “In Sicily, the wine experience is a metaphor for a land that is changing and has been able to enhance an asset, the wine industry, which is capable of representing our Sicily at its best”, commented Marcello Mangia, president and CEO Mangia’s – Aeroviaggi, which owns 9 top resorts, including 6 in Sicily and 3 in Sardinia.
With roots firmly in tradition and the past, then, Assovini Sicilia is laying the foundation for the future by continuing to follow the winning trajectory and strategy that has led the association to successfully celebrate these first 25 years. Companies are preparing for the generational transition: 78% of member wineries have already integrated a new generation into their business management. Within the association, the “Generation Next” group was born, representing the new generations of Assovini Sicilia, young people under 40 who are already operating and family members in family businesses and who, guided by the example of Assovini, are striving to create a team that looks to the future and the enhancement of the Sicilian wine territory. Among the main areas of intervention of the newly formed group: communication, training and enhancement of the territory. “I believe that the NextGen of our entrepreneurial families have very clearly in mind what kind of ancestors they want to be: and that is how they will transform business models, here in Sicily and in wine as in all sectors and geographies”, said Giovanna Gregori, executive director Aidaf - Italian Family Business.
Messages arrived from an event, “Sicilia en Primeur” 2024, conceived and organized by Assovini Sicilia since 2004, and which, this year, celebrates 20 years since its first edition. A traveling event that has based its success on a winning format: to combine the preview of the wines of the latest vintage with visits to wineries and territories, telling the historical-archaeological and landscape beauties of Sicily through the storytelling of wine. “With “Sicilia en Primeur”, wine becomes a storytelling tool not only of the wine heritage, but also of the human and historical heritage of Sicily. Wine is the thread that connects the stories of producers to those of the territories, weaves tales, joins pieces of a unique mosaic where Sicily is an extraordinary wine continent”, concluded President Mariangela Cambria.

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