A while back I had the pleasure of attending Wines of Sicily, a special wine tasting event in Chicago that showcased a wide range of ingenious, delicious dry white and red Sicilian wines designated by the Sicilia DOC consortium of wine producers. Remarkably, these wines are by far the most underrated and overlooked in the United States, consumed by less than 10 percent of the American population.
As one who follows a Mediterranean-style diet I’m an avid consumer and fan of wines, especially reds. Having tried over a dozen Sicilian red wines I can really appreciate the unique medley of strong, rich and incredibly versatile flavors they offer.
The best quality wines in Sicily carry the Sicilia DOC label. Any and all wines carrying this label are organic in nature, produced by grapes grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. Interestingly, the juices extracted from organically grown grapes generally have much higher concentrations of polyphenols relative to those of conventionally grown grapes.
This is especially beneficial, as polyphenols are powerful antioxidant compounds that have been shown to counter atherosclerosis (the major precursor of heart disease) and regulate the actions of insulin in ways that help to prevent and control diabetes.
Sicilian wines tend to be on the dry or semi-dry side of the flavor spectrum. Drier wines are those that have undergone the full fermentation process during which nearly all sugar is converted to ethanol while sweeter wines are produced when the process is cut short in order to preserve the sugar content and overall sweet taste. In other words, drier wines house more ethanol while sweeter varieties generally contain more sugar.
Unbeknownst to many, moderate ethanol intake has been proven beneficial in supporting heart health, alleviating inflammation, and lowering blood sugar levels. Therefore, the rich combination of ethanol and polyphenols housed in Sicilian wines creates a healthful advantage. This holds especially true for reds as the juices of dark-colored grapes contain the highest amounts of polyphenols.
When it comes to signature Sicilian red varieties, Morgante Nero d’Avola and Nero d’Avola MandraRossa are currently at the top of my list in terms of both nutritional quality and taste. These wines pair perfectly with some of my favorite Mediterranean foods like aged cheeses, roasted and grilled poultry or meats, and thick, hearty meat or vegetable-based soups and stews.
Still, in spite of the numerous nutritional benefits of Sicilian wines and other high-quality varieties, moderation is key, as overconsumption of any alcoholic beverages can lead to weight gain and other health problems. To ensure that the benefits of wine consumption outweigh the risks, women should err on the side of one 5-ounce glass a day while men should limit their intake to no more than two glasses.
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Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.