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Zibibbo of Pantelleria

Pantelleria Zibibbo is both the name of a grape variety and the sweet wine that is obtained. The vite ad alberello (head-trained bush vines) vine of Zibibbo grapes, the pride of the island of Pantelleria, Sicily, was included in the prestigious list of Cultural Heritage of Humanity by unanimous vote of 161 countries in the General Assembly of UNESCO in Paris, November 26, 2014.

The Zibibbo Name and Traditions

The term zibibbo is derived from the Arabic word zabib (= raisins). Synonyms of zibibbo are: for the wine, Muscat of Pantelleria or Alexandria, Moscatellone; and for the grapes, Salamonica and Salamanna. The cultivation of Zibibbo is the result of "heroic" viticulture: it takes place in holes dug in the ground, along terraces, to repair the vines from the wind whipping the island 300 days a year. This centuries-old tradition of the island shaped its landscape over time.

Features of the Grape

zibibbo harvest A medium leaf, usually three-lobed; grapes are big and oblong, the berries are large and oval with a thick peel, yellowish green; maturation is a bit late. The Zibibbo grapes are used for both winemaking and direct consumption or for drying.

Features of the Wine

In its name the main characteristics of Zibibbo are enclosed: its big elongated grapes, of a particularly sweet pulp, lend themselves very well to the drying process that follows the harvest.

Zibibbo is a wine with a bright, golden yellow colour. The scent is pleasant and fruity, with hints of almond and apricot, while the taste is sweet, aromatic and with a typical almond aftertaste. The alcohol content of the wine is a minimum of 10° and is strictly served cold, at a temperature between 8 and 12°C. As for pairings, as well as being used as an aperitif, Zibibbo is perfect with fish and shellfish, as well as tasty cheeses and blue cheeses. Thanks to its composition, however, its ideal match is with desserts, especially traditional Sicilian cannoli, cassata, almond paste, but also pistachio-based desserts and ice cream.

From Zibibbo vines not only the zibibbo wines are obtained but also the famous Moscato and Passito di Pantelleria; because of its renowned sweetness, the product is also used as a blending wine, especially for of northern Italian wines, which are often deficient in sugar content and aroma.

History

The zibibbo grape, originary of Egypt, was introduced by the Phoenicians in Pantelleria, where almost the whole Italian production is still cultivated. The Arabs then introduced the terraces where the grape is grown.
Zibibbo terraces

Nowadays Zibibbo grapes are also cultivated in Sicily, with remarkable success in the area of Mazara del Vallo and in the WWF nature reserve "Gorghi Tondi", where a dry wine is produced of great value, ideal for pairing with oysters and white-meat fish; among these wines, the "Rajah" of the Gorghi Tondi estate has won many international awards. From Zibibbo grapes not only the dry Zibibbo wine is obtained, but also the Moscato di Pantelleria.

The Unesco Inscription

Before Italy, no country had ever managed to enter an agricultural practice in the list. Only very recently the same recognition was also obtained by the Langhe and Monferrato, areas of great viticulture.

UNESCO has recognized the historical and cultural value, as well as the identity, of this ancient process, and such recognition could revive the production of Zibibbo and give impulse to the recovery of abandoned vineyards, convincing young people to stay instead of seeking opportunities outside the island. Many on Pantelleria hope that the UNESCO recognition might foster a renaissance of the outstanding quality wine Pantelleria Passito, brought worldwide by major brands as Donnafugata.

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