Native White Sicilian Grapes
- February 13, 2021
Native white Sicilian grapes
Grillo, Inzolia and Catarratto
There are several lovely native white Sicilian grapes. Three are well-known as contributors to Sicily’s historically important Marsala, a fortified wine from the northwest of the island. But Grillo, Inzolia and Catarratto are now finding a more important role in high quality varietal and blended still table wines.
Grillo may have come to Sicily from the heel of the Italian boot, Puglia or Apulia, but is now growing all around the island. Wine producers are now taking a long, fresh look at this grape and replanting it plentifully. In addition, more modern wine-making techniques are yielding light, fresh and fruity wines either varietal or blended.
Inzolia, or Ansonica in Tuscany, is also widespread in Sicily. With changing fortunes it is now appearing often as a crisp dry white wine either alone or blended with Grillo or Catarratto. Its origin is obscure. Some hold that it is indigenous to Sicily while others suggest it is a relative of certain Greek grapes. Whatever its origin, Inzolia wines are moderately aromatic with herbal and some nutty characteristics.
Catarratto is a grape with a high yield. Formerly, it was mostly earmarked for production of Marsala or for blending. Like Inzolia and Grillo, however, its potential is being re-evaluated in the light of more modern and advanced techniques of winemaking. The two forms Lucido and Comune are probably identical. Interestingly, it is likely related to Grecanico which is also common in Sicily and which is the same as Garganega of Soave.
Maria Costanza and Vignavella
For one of their organic white wines, Milazzo wineries use Inzolia combined with Chardonnay, a blend they pioneered. In addition, they use special yeasts and fermentation proceeds in stainless steel vats. They also ferment a little in oak barrels adding complexity. The resulting Maria Costanza is an award-winning aromatic and finely-structured wine. Its full and mouth-cleansing body and lingering finish show what can be achieved with Inzolia. The same organic winemakers have taken a selected old biotype of Catarratto and grown it on two different soil types. With this novel viticultural approach they have created Vignavella an aromatic and fruity wine with a fine structure. Powerful on the palate at over 13% alcohol, it indicates the new heights we can expect from this, and other, native white Sicilian grapes.