Catarratto, a Sicilian classic26298
Catarratto [KAH-tahr-RAT-toh] is one of the classic traditional white grape varieties of Sicily, and is considered to be one of the most antique.
Mostly planted in the Western part of the Island, Catarratto represents today about 33% of the Sicilian vineyard, with a significant concentration in the provinces of Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo.
Used as a primary variety in the DOC Sicilia wines, it is also used as the main grape in several local appellations, such as Alcamo, Marsala, Menfi, Santa Margherita di Belìce.
Several ampelographic studies from XVII to XIX Century have identified at least eight phenotypes of Catarratto, two of which show substantial variations: Catarratto Comune and Catarratto Lucido, and have developed during at least 20 centuries by subsequent adaptations to different micro-climates.
A more recent parentage analysis study (Di Vecchi Staraz, 2008) reveals that Catarratto is most likely the father of Garganega, one of the most ancient white grapes of Northern Italy, and has genetic relations with several others (Mantonico Bianco in Calabria, Susumaniello in Apulia, Malvasia di Candia in Central Italy, Trebbiano in Tuscany, Albana and Mostosa in Romagna, Dorona and Marzemina in Veneto).
Furthermore, it has finally been clarified that Catarratto is the father of Grillo, through its natural crossing with Zibibbo.
CHARACTERISTICS OF CATARRATTO GRAPES
Catarratto is a vigorous variety, with a good resistance to the most common grape diseases.
Bud break generally occurs at the beginning of April, while the ripening cycle lasts until early or mid September.
Grape bunches are conical, from medium to big, with two side bunches; they may vary in compactness and produce small round berries, with a green-yellow color >>> check the infographic for visual description.
old Catarratto vine in Cantine Barbera Belìce di Mare vineyard
CATARRATTO: TASTING NOTES
The most popular Catarratto wines that you easily find on supermarket's shelves are fresh whites with a medium structure, a mild acidity and a moderate alcohol level. Their aromatic profile is typically associated with citrus fruit and flowers (lemon zest, wild oranges and citrus blossoms), tropical fruit such as grapefruit and passionflower with a touch of fine herbs and sweet spices. A good salinity and a mineral feeling on the finish may occasionally turn into a slightly bitter closure.
Beyond a market oriented winemaking, a new approach to Catarratto is taking off in recent years. This is actually the traditional Sicilian wimemaking, which had been abandoned for too long: natural producers are now more focused on re-discovering the real taste of Catarratto, and are experimenting with spontaneous fermentations, amphora or cement refining, and skin contact.
Their wines finally show how versatile and unique the variety is.
These are intense wines, sometimes slightly tannic - due to prolonged skin contact; they are enhanced by notes of hazelnuts and peanuts, and definitely show a more complex and interesting aromatic profile.
I use Catarratto to make my Arèmi Catarratto Superiore: this wine is spontaneously fermented on the skins for about 1 week in standard vintages, but the skin contact can go on for 2 weeks if the season is favorable; it refines on its fine lees for a minimum 12 months, both in neutral oak and in amphoras.
SERVING TIPS AND FOOD PAIRING
Enjoy Catarratto in a standard white wine glass, at a cold (not chilled) temperature. Most wines are nice when they are young, but several expressions from the best producers and terroirs can age up to 3-4 years.
Catarratto is a very versatile wine that pairs well with fish and seafood, white meats, grilled vegetables and soft goat cheese. Skin macerated and passito Catarratto wines are suitable to match with matured cheses and with many tasty dishes of the traditional Sicilian cuisine.
MORE RESOURCES ON CATARRATTO
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