Discover the Sicilian indigenous grape varieties

  • Inzolia

    Inzolia

    Known in Sicily by different names (Insolia, Ansolia, ‘Nzolia vranca), Inzolia is a white grape variety anciently brought here by the Greeks. It also grows in Calabria and Tuscany (Ansonica), and in several wine regions of Western Mediterranean.

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  • Grillo

    Grillo

    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 about Grillo's is that its popularity has broadened from being totally obscure to becoming one of the most appreciated varieties in a very limited amount of time.

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  • Catarratto

    Catarratto

    Catarratto is one of the classic traditional white grape varieties of Sicily, and one of the most antique. Mostly planted in the Western part of the Island, it represents today about 33% of the Sicilian vineyard, mainly in the provinces of Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo.

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  • Frappato

    Frappato

    From a minor grape variety to a Sicilian superstar, Frappato has enchanted people's palate in a short time. It is a versatile grape: single varietal frappato is easy drinking and excellent companion for food; when blended with Nero d'Avola, it offers structure and elegance.

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  • Nero d'Avola

    Nero d'Avola

    Nero d’Avola is the most famous Sicilian red grape, and one of the most widely planted all over the Island. Covering more than 17.500 hectares, it represents today about 16% of the Sicilian vineyard.

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  • Perricone

    Perricone

    Perricone is a red grape variety that is indigenous to Western Sicily. Its origins date back to the Greek colonization of the Western Mediterranean, about the VIII century BC, and it has been cultivated since then in the “golden triangle” between Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento.

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  • Zibibbo

    Zibibbo

    Zibibbo is one of the rarest grapes in the world with a triple attitude: it is a wine grape, a table grape and a raisin grape. Its extraordinary adaptability is the main reason for a long history that dates back 5.000 years.

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Catarratto white Sicilian indigenous grape

Catarratto, a Sicilian classic

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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.

Catarratto and Zibibbo are ancestors of Grillo 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 vine Catarratto

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.

Catarratto: profilo aromatico e descrittoriBeyond 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. 
 

WINE SHEETS

Btg Aremi

Arèmi
Catarratto Superiore
Menfi DOC

 

MORE RESOURCES ON CATARRATTO

Catarratto: infografica vitigno e vino Want to know more about Catarratto?
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.


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Tags: Menfi DOC, catarratto, #SicilianWine, sicilian grape varieties, Arèmi

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