MSc Wine & Spirits Management explores Sicily's winemaking heritage

From 28th to 31st May, students from the MSc Wine & Spirits Management at KEDGE Wine School embarked on an enriching study trip to eastern Sicily. This journey was crafted to immerse them deeply in the world of Sicilian wine, featuring visits to prestigious vineyards and meetings with esteemed producers.

Study excursion through Vittoria, Catania, and Etna's wine country

Sicily, with its rich history and deep-rooted viticultural traditions, offers a unique learning environment. The island's diverse indigenous grape varieties, varied terroirs, and volcanic soils provided the MSc Wine & Spirits Management students with the opportunity to explore a wide array of viticulture and winemaking techniques. Moreover, Sicily boasts a millennia-old wine heritage, evidenced by archaeological finds that highlight its ancient and profound winemaking culture.

The trip commenced with a visit to Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti. Arianna Occhipinti, a passionate winemaker, shared her philosophy of wine production, which emphasises respect for the soil and biodiversity. The students were introduced to indigenous grape varieties such as Frappato and Nero d’Avola. Following this, they visited Azienda Vitivinicola COS, known for achieving Sicily’s only DOCG designation, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria. This first day was filled with valuable insights into local viticultural practices and the challenges faced by producers.

The journey continued with the exploration of vineyards on the northern slopes of Etna. The students visited the Girolamo Russo estate, where Giuseppe Russo has preserved the family’s viticultural heritage in the village of Passopisciaro. They then explored Tenuta delle Terre Nere, managed by Marco and Sebastian de Grazia. This estate, with its centuries-old vines, exemplifies the renaissance of Etna’s red wines. Interactions with producers provided the students with a deeper understanding of the impact of altitude and volcanic terroir on wine quality.

Subsequent visits took the students to Barone di Villagrande vineyard, at the foot of Etna. The Nicolosi family, who have been active in the region since the 17th century, have significantly contributed to Etna’s oenological history. Following this, the students met Salvo Foti, founder of I Vigneri, who explained his philosophy of "human wines," which emphasises traditional agricultural practices and the use of the Alberello and Palmento systems. This day offered a unique perspective on sustainable viticulture and environmentally respectful practices.

On the final day, an excursion to Mount Etna allowed students to explore extinct craters and recent lava flows, providing a geological perspective on the region’s unique terroir. This experience concluded the trip on a spectacular note, highlighting the interplay between the volcano and local viticulture.

This study trip to Sicily provided MSc students with a profound understanding of Sicilian wines and local viticultural practices. Visits to vineyards and meetings with producers enriched their knowledge and enhanced their professional skills. Organised at the end of the academic year, this experience perfectly blended academic learning with practical experience, offering students invaluable insights into the European wine industry.