Sicily and another native red grape from Mount Etna: Nerello Cappuccio.

Nerello Cappuccio – a native Sicilian grape from Mount Etna

Nerello Cappuccio is a another red variety native to Sicily.  It is best known from the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna.  Here it flourishes especially at altitudes greater than 350 meters.  Some have traced the origin of this variety to at least 1839 and to the area between Trecastagni and Viagrande in the province of Catania. The name, the Black Hood, comes from the manner in which untended leaves curl over the grapes to protect the fruit. Or so the legend says. Some Sicilian winemakers say that Nerello Cappuccio wines have great colour but do not age well and that the opposite is true for Nerello Mascalese. So, they are often combined to make a dark-red and full-bodied wine.


Nerello Cappuccio also appears in Northeastern Sicily in the Faro denomination. Here, it blends well not just with Nerello Mascalese but also with Nocera, Sangiovese and Nero d’Avola. In these blended wines, Nerello Cappuccio is usually the junior participant at around 20-30%.  There are also plantings of this grape across the Straits of Messina in Calabria.  Nerello Cappuccio may also, uncommonly, make a varietal wine, deeply colored and tannic with aromas and flavours of berries, cherries and herbs. The wineries of Tenuta di Fessina and Benanti on Mount Etna have such offerings.

Duca di Montalbo

Agrigento province in the southwest of Sicily is not the traditional homeland of Nerello Cappuccio.  But Milazzo use selected clones from the Montalbo area.  They blend these with Nero d’Avola and produce a wine in selected years from old vines. With their particular process of vinification the resulting Duca di Montalbo is splendid. The Murgo winery combine Nerello Cappuccio with Nerello Mascalese to produce a full-bodied rosé wine. Like others, this grape variety is benefitting from improvements in viticulture and vinification and is enjoying a resurgence in interest so who knows what innovations lie ahead…?

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