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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Grillo, the new cool Sicilian wine

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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.

Catarratto Zibibbo incrocio

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 biotypes

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.

Grillo aromatic profileA 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.

WINE SHEETS

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Albamarina
Vino Bianco Frizzante

Coste al Vento
Grillo Menfi DOC

 

MORE RESOURCES

Info GrilloWant to know more about Grillo? 
Watch and download the complete infographic by clicking on the picture.
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Tags: Menfi DOC, #SicilianWine, grillo, infografica, sicilian grape varieties

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