Zibibbo is a white grape and wine produced on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria. Ancient Arab settlers brought the aromatic grape, also called zibibbo ('zibib' is Arabic for 'grape') to the island, and this forerunner to Marsala has been made there for centuries. The grapes, which are similar in aromatics to Muscat, are left on the vine till they partially ferment in the sun as they raisin. The resulting wine, also known as Bianco di Pantelleria, has characteristics of fortified wines, but without the addition of brandy, and with lower alcohol.
Zibibbo is a grape variety that can be used to make anything from table wine to grappa. However, the Zibibbo made commercially by several houses is a strong wine similar to Marsala but fermented and then partially distilled naturally, without the addition of spirits. The process differs also in that Zibibbo is actually made from grapes partially fermented in the sun. It is a very old process, and Zibibbo, though not the direct originator of Marsala derives from a formula known in the middle ages. Typically slightly lower in alcohol than Marsala (about 15% compared to 18 or 20%) and sometimes more robust.
Until the middle of 19th century the production of grapes was of marginal importance for the local economy. In the course of years, by improving techniques finally a high quality wine production was reached.
The cultivation techniques are of Arabic origin, and it demanded the construction of thousands of stone walls in order to create the farming terraces: at the end of summer you can see the grapes which are dried under the warm sun of the Mediterranean in order to produce an optimal raisin. Different wine styles even if all made by using the zibibbo grape, are remarkably different. The 'Moscato' wine of Pantelleria has got a dark yellow colour tending to amber and has a strong taste. The 'Passito' wine, has an amber colour, and a remarkably dense fragrance, sometimes like dried figs, candied fruits and dates.