Grillo, the new cool Sicilian wine17868
I am quite sure that nobody outside Sicily knew anything about Grillo only 10 years ago.
This is also still the case for many indigenous Sicilian grapes, but the one surprising thing is that Grillo's popularity has broadened from being totally obscure to becoming one of the most appreciated varieties in a very limited amount of time.
The reasons for such a huge success lay in the amazing work of a bunch of small producers focused on organic farming and natural winemaking, who have soon become the Grillo’s most interesting interpreters in Western Sicily. Skin contact and a generous supply of oxygen during the fermentation are their main choices to obtain rich, complex and very peculiar wines that strive to capture the very essence of terroir once embodied by the old school “vino di casa”, thus bringing Sicilian traditions to a new life.
Unlike other Sicilian varieties, Grillo is not an ancient grape: very recent genetic analysis confirm that it is the result of a crossing between Catarratto and Zibibbo, an indigenous biotype of Muscat of Alexandria.
At the end of the XIX century, Sicily was a renowned center for experimentation in viticulture and its Universities were credited among the most illustrious research centers at an international level. Palermo hosted a world-famous academic facility for studying possible solutions to the problem of phylloxera, the pest that in only a half century had almost destroyed the European vineyards.
The tremendous work done by its scholars (Paulsen, Ruggeri, Prosperi and many others) contributed to the creation of the resistant rootstocks that are still used today all over Europe. Some of these scientists put their efforts into producing new hybrids, hoping to obtain resistant varieties: Grillo, created by Antonio Mendola in 1873, is one of them.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GRILLO GRAPES
Grillo is a vigorous variety that enjoys hot and dry weather, therefore it adapts perfectly to the Sicilian climate.
There are two main biotypes.
Both are vigorous and resistant to late blight and each of them can concentrate a good amount of sugars together with a rather low pH: a very interesting combination that is often associated with any grape variety that gives birth to great quality wines.
As shown in the picture, more acidic wines are made from the compact clusters of biotype A, while fruitier wines derive from the loose bunches of biotype B.
GRILLO: TASTING NOTES
Grillo wines can show very different personalities depending on the winemaking technique.
A modern approach, often followed by big producers, would avoid any air exposure of the must: a reductive winemaking, together with the use of selected yeast strains, will result in lemony wines that show crispy fruitiness and are very easy to drink, which somehow remind me of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
The old school approach that favors skin contact and a natural oxygen supply will result, on the contrary, in richer, earthier and spicier wines with a riper fruit feeling and a more complex aromatic profile: these are the wines that I generally like the most.
SERVING TIPS AND FOOD PAIRING
While crispier Grillo wines can be served in a regular white wine glass and are nicer when young, the most expressive wines made through skin contact should be poured in large glasses and never be chilled to fully enjoy their complexity. Plus, they can age longer than the first ones, and will develop deeper tertiary aromas while refining 3-5 years (or more) in the bottle.
Food pairing is easy and offers an amazing array of possibilities: from fish to egg preparations, from white meat and goat cheeses to pasta and risotto dishes, Grillo wines are always a great addition to any meal.
Want to know more about Grillo?
Watch and download the complete infographic by clicking on the picture.
Feel free to use any of the information and pictures included in this article for your studies or presentations, by citing the source.
Want to share this article or the infographic?
Please tag your posts with #SicilianWine, it will be easier for you to follow all interactions on Facebook and Twitter.