A while ago, I decided to start a series of posts about my favourite wine bars across the world. I kicked things off with Le Baron Rouge, an incredible little hole in the wall in Paris.
Now, for my second installment, I'm taking you to the tiny island of Ortigia in Sicily... an absolute paradise connected by a short bridge to the city of Siracusa.
Ortigia had my heart from the moment I arrived. I felt so completely relaxed and happy there that I cancelled all plans for my remaining two weeks in Sicily and extended my four night stay in Ortigia to two and a half weeks. I also accidentally caused a temporary power outage on half of the island, but that's a story for another post.
On my second night in Ortigia I came across Evoe, a beautiful wine bar and shop just a few minute's walk from the island's main street. Evoe stocks a huge range of wines, but you'd be stupid to focus on anything other than Sicilian bottles given the island's abundance of unique and historic varieties.
Some sources will tell you the Ancient Greeks, who once inhabited Sicily, brought their wine-making skills to the island... but they are oh-so wrong. In 2017, archaeologists in Sicily found wine residue in terrcota jars which dated back over 6,000 years - long before the Greeks found their way over. That recent discovery means Sicily (along with Armenia, where similarly aged traces were found) has the oldest evidence of wine-making and wine consumption in the world. Moral of the story? They know their stuff.
The owner of Evoe, Adriano, is as welcoming as he is knowledgable. Instead of choosing something myself, I asked him to surprise me with a few half-glasses of different Sicilian reds - and he absolutely delivered. As I was sipping away, Adriano came back to check in and see what I had preferred and why, and then seamlessy chose my next taster accordingly. If you don't know much about the different varietals (types of grapes) native to the island, I've listed some below to look out for. If in doubt just ask the staff, the customer service here is truly top-notch.
Carricante - Grown around Etna and often found in high-quality Etna Bianco wines.
Inzolia - Sometimes used to make Marsala, but equally delicious on its own. It has a fresh, citrus-y taste and a distinctive nutty aroma.
Nero D'Avola - A widely planted and well known grape, native to Sicily. Produces a very dark and smooth wine with a bit of a spicy kick. Nerello Mascalese - My favourite! A lesser-known and gorgeous Sicilian grape. It's sometimes used in Etna Rosso blends, but it really shines on it's own. Sometimes compared to Pinot Noir, it can pair well with lighter dishes. Amazing aroma!
Evoe also does fantastic light food, such as fresh cheese & charcuterie platters, salads, and bruschetta.
I tried an abundance of things from their menu on my many visits (amazing burrata!) but one of my favourites, especially if you're visiting the Evoe pre-dinner, is the vegetarian bruschetta. Four slices of homemade bread topped with various delicious things:
*chopped tomatoes and oregano *artichoke spread *olive pate *(SO FUCKING GOOD) sundried Sicilian tomato spread
On my last evening in Ortigia I stopped by for a final glass of wine, and left with a couple of very resonably priced bottles to take home. Don't miss this absolute gem if you find yourself in the paradise that is Ortigia!
You'll find Evoe at Via della Maestranza 56.