Have you tried Catarratto? If not, it is one of Sicily’s best whites if made well. It’s simple with an edge. Sun kissed lemony notes in a medium to full bodied white. It is one of the most planted grape varieties in Italy by volume although being mainly grown in Sicily. It is often used as a “filler” or bulk grape in whites due to its high yield potential (essentially cheap) – a typical example being the fortified Marsala. With this as a given, the grape must be carefully cultivated and vinified to be considered a good white wine. Especially from Etna DOC you can get some wonderfully mineral rich full bodied and golden yellow, oily, delicious wines. Usually the price is decent for what you get which is always a bonus! Ciello Bianco from Normanno, is one of those with unbelievable quality for the price tag. A natural wine that works as well as an aperitif as an all day drinking in the sun or with your favourite pizza.
Another grape very similar to Catarratto is Grillo – also used in Marsala wine, widely planted in Sicily with lemon and apple flavours dominating. I have started come across Grillo more frequently in natural wine bars recently, so it appears it is on the rise within this sphere of winemakers. Compared to Catarratto, Grillo appears to show more promise as a high qualitive wine. Modern wine making techniques have given way for more crisp, lemony and herbal white wine as opposed to the fattier, earthy wines a few decades ago. The next time you walk past your local wine bar – sneak in and see if they have some you can try.
Malvasia is one of the four aromatic grapes – the other ones being Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Moscato. An aromatic grape is a grape defined by the ability of being able to smell the ripe grape on the vine in the finished wine, which is called the primary aroma. Thus, the Malvasia has lots of fruit and flowery tones. There are lots of Malvasia varieties that grow all over Italy, but the Malvasia di Lipari from Sicily is mainly used to produce sweet wines as a “Passito” style or air dried. The result is a delight with notes of honey, dried apricot and fresh peaches with a long length and intense aromas of oranges and flowers. Not something you might drink often but try it if you get the chance.
Zibibbo, or Moscato di Alessandria as it is also called is the final white wine I will cover out of Sicily’s whites. The latter name comes from what believes to be the origin of the grape: Alessandria in Egypt (however this is not confirmed). As part of the Moscato family this also belongs to the aromatic grapes group. It is made into either a dry or a sweet wine. In the sweet wine you get orange jam, caramel, sweet figs in syrup and raisins (of which you also get some in the dry wine). In the dry wine you typically get dried herbs, ginger and apricot. Zibibbo is typically grown on the island of Pantelleria off the southwest coast of Sicily.
I hope this has opened your eyes to Sicilian whites and makes you try something new next time you are in the wine shop or bar!
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Blog posted by Sofia – Follow her on Instagram
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