Mamertino di Milazzo is an Italian wine DOC of north-eastern Sicily, named (in part) after Milazzo town and the Capo di Milazzo peninsula which juts out into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Introduced officially in September 2004, the title covers a wine style which has been around since classical antiquity, but now has a legally protected name, formalized production conditions and a defined region of provenance.
The original Mamertino was named after the Mamertini, an early people of what is now the Messina province. The Mamertini arrived in Sicily from Campania in about 310 BC, mercenaries paid by Agathocles, the tyrant king of Syracuse. The name is a reference to Mamers, an ancient fertility god later adopted by the Romans as Mars, the god of war. In 310 BC Agathocles' forces, helped by the Mamertini, raided and occupied the city of Messina. The city was re-taken by the Carthaginians five years later, but despite this defeat many Mamertini remained in north-eastern Sicily. They settled down and, at some point in their history, discovered the viticultural potential of north-eastern Sicily. Mamertine wine came to be highly respected, not only by writers such as Pliny (23–79 AD) and Strabo (63 BC–24 AD) but also by Roman emperor Julius Caesar (100–44 BC).
Modern Mamertine wine, Mamertino di Milazzo, comes in several forms rather than a single definitive style. There are the basic red (rosso) and white (bianco) wines, each with a barrel-aged riserva form, and a varietal form: all come in varying sweetness levels from dry (secco) to sweet (dolce). Mamertino di Milazzo remains a traditional, very 'Sicilian' wine, being made from three of the island's most idiosyncratic varieties: Nero d'Avola, Grillo and Inzolia (Ansonica). Nero d'Avola is thought to have come from the town of Avola, just down Sicily's east coast – ironically the town's two local DOCs (Moscatos di Noto and di Siracusa) do not use the variety at all. Perhaps even more ironically, Sicilians often refer to Nero d'Avola as Calabrese, honoring its adoption as an important red variety in Calabria.
It would be logical to assume that the Capo di Milazzo, or at least Milazzo town, was the epicenter of the Mamertino di Milazzo DOC. However the reality is quite different: the cape area is reserved for olive trees and tourists seeking seaside afternoons and sunset vistas. Most of the DOC's vineyards are located in the 31 communes adjacent to Milazzo, all in the province of Messina.
Varietal labeling in Italian wine is limited mostly to single-variety wines, whether the variety forms an integral part of the DOC or is a sub-category, but the varietal forms of white Mamertino di Milazzo are in fact made from two varieties. Grillo & Inzolia and Inzolia & Grillo (according to the dominant variety in the blend) are the two in question, the white counterparts to Mamertino di Milazzo Nero d'Avola.