Home > Grapes, Italian wines, Sicily, wine ratings, wine recommendations > So Long, Catarratto. Welcome, Lucido

So Long, Catarratto. Welcome, Lucido

November 14, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

Catarratto grapes. Source: Sicily DOC website

It is a mouthful of the title, isn’t it?

“So long, Catarratto, welcome Lucido” – a bunch of strange words lumped together seemingly without any purpose, right?

Okay, I get it – some explaining is due.

Catarratto is the most planted white grape in Sicily and the second most planted white grape in Italy. Sicily has about 75 acres of Catarratto vines between two of its clones, Catarratto Bianco Comune and Catarratto Bianco Lucido, which represents 30% of the whole vineyard area in Sicily. Catarratto production increased from 17,300 bottles in 2012 to 730,000 bottles in 2020. And it is one of the historical varieties, growing forever on the island, producing fresh, round, and well-balanced wines. Sounds great, right? I would assume that you sense that the “but” is coming. So what is the problem with this picture? The name, Catarratto, is the problem.

Catarratto – pronounced “kah-tahr-rat-to”. Say it a few times, just for fun. Think if you will be comfortable ordering it in the restaurant, while just calling it by name instead of pointing with your finger on the line in the wine list saying “this”, “I want this”.

As Catarratto was growing in popularity, its name became a barrier. People don’t want to be embarrassed. And saying the word you don’t know how to pronounce requires a lot of courage. When Sicilian wines were presented at the seminar in China 10 years ago, there was enough of the anecdotal evidence collected in the form of videos with attendees struggling greatly while trying to pronounce the word Catarratto. And so it was well understood by the Sicilian winemakers that if they want to be successful with the wine which actually well deserves such success, something needs to be done.

Lucido is the name of one of the clones of Catarratto, and it is the name that often was used in ancient times. While Catarratto Bianco Lucido has a slightly different appearance compared with Catarratto Bianco Comune with Lucido grapes being shiny (hence the name), genetic research showed that both grapes are completely identical (speaking of genetics – another Italian grape, Garganega, is considered to be one of the parents of Catarratto, but then nobody knows where Garganega came from… ).

Sicilian DOC Consortium took this grape renaming task to the heart and after 2 years of lobbying, on November 21, 2018, the national Ministry issued a decree allowing the name Lucido to be used for any of the Catarratto wines produced in Sicily.

There are about 530 native grape varieties in existence in Italy, so it is obvious that setting up the precedent with renaming the grape variety was not taken lightly. But in the case of Catarratto/Lucido, it became very clear that considering the volume of production and possibilities of increased international demand, the hard-pronounced name of the grape variety became a gating issue of the wine’s success, and the right decision was made.

While Sicilian winemakers definitely appreciated the opportunity to change the name, it doesn’t mean that in mere 3 years you will see the name Lucido appear on all the wine labels. While we might think that the picture should look like this:

the 3 samples which I received looked like this:

Well, whether Catarratto is difficult to pronounce or not had no bearing on the wines, as I loved all three of them:

2020 Cottanera Barbazzale Catarratto Sicilia DOC (12.5% ABV)
Straw pale
A hint of tropical fruit, lemon, herbs
Round, beautiful, Golden delicious apples, lemon, good acidity, clean and fresh.
8/8+, outstanding.

2020 Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Midor Catarratto Sicilia DOC (12.5% ABV, organic grapes)
Straw pale
Generous nose with a hint of vanilla, honey, and gunflint
Crisp, clear, precise, elegant, beautiful acidity, lemon, more gunflint, and Granny Smith apples.
8+, can be easily confused for a Chardonnay. Wine with finesse.

2019 Alessandro di Camporeale Benedè Catarratto Sicilia DOC (13% ABV)
Straw pale
Lemon, steely minerality
Crisp, tart, lemon, expressive minerality, clean acidity. Very refreshing
8, excellent food-friendly wine

I wouldn’t lie to you – Midor Catarratto was my most favorite wine, and I really admire its tile-styled label.

Catarratto’s name served the eponymous grape well, but the change is coming. It is a slow change, but as long as it is just the change of the name, and we will still get to enjoy the wine inside the bottle, it is the change that will help this wine to deliver pleasure to more wine lovers around the world.

And for you, my wine friends, Catarratto or Lucido – go find this wine and expand your wine vocabulary.

Welcome, Lucido.

P.S. For the grape geeks out there: as I was working on this post, I came across this article, which identifies Mantonico Bianco as the second parent (along with Garganega) of Catarratto. The article is from 2017, so it should be old news, but at least the Wikipedia article on Catarratto has no mention of it…

 

  1. November 15, 2021 at 4:18 am

    I’ve heard rumblings the last few years about the name change. Lucido will make the world happy… I love the grape. I get the ‘…can be easily confused for a Chardonnay’ that you say for the Tondi Midor. I also highly recomment Porta del Vento Catarratto!

    • November 15, 2021 at 8:27 am

      Thanks for the recommendation, Lynn. Yes, delicious whites, and Lucido is a bit easier on the tongue 😊🥂

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