Archive

Posts Tagged ‘sicilian wine’

So Long, Catarratto. Welcome, Lucido

November 14, 2021 3 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…

 

Daily Glass: For The Love Of Appassimento

October 10, 2021 3 comments

Appassimento is an Italian word that means “drying”. Thus very appropriately, appassimento is the process where after the harvest, grapes are dried for some time (from 3 weeks to 6 months) before being pressed and fermented. Now, the question to the audience: name any wine (just type, no need for producer) which is made from such dried grapes?

If you said Amarone della Valpolicella, Passito di Pantelleria, Recioto di Soave, or Recioto della Valpolicella, you can definitely give yourself a high five. While this method of wine production originated in Greece, Italy produces most of the appassimento wines in the world. Drying of the grapes increases the concentration of flavors and sugars and changes the structure of the tannins, bringing an extra layer of complexity to the wine.

While getting more complexity is great for any wine, it also comes at a cost. Drying of the grapes requires additional space, whether inside with good ventilation, or outside under the sun. There is additional time required to dry the grapes. And while drying, grapes lose moisture, thus you need to use a lot more grapes to get that same bottle of wine – no wonder Amarone is usually an expensive wine – but if you ever experienced good Amarone, or Passito, Recioto, Sfursat (Sforzato di Valtellina), Vin Santo, you know that it was well worth it.

Making wines from partially dried grapes is not limited only to Italy – I had delicious Australian Shiraz made from partially dried grapes (Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz from South Australia), Pedro Ximenez Sherry from Spain. Overall, the wines from dried grapes are produced in most of the winemaking regions – Eastern Europe, Germany, Greece, USA, and others.

The appassimento wine which I would like to bring to your attention today is produced in Italy, but it is far from common. Nero d’Avola is known to produce big, well-structured Sicilian reds. But when you take Nero d’Avola grapes from four of the areas in Sicily where Nero d’Avola is known to grow best, then you dry the bunches of the grapes for 3 weeks in fruttaia (well-ventilated rooms) and then continue to make wine, you end up with delicious, round, perfectly approachable wine in its youth.

2019 Cantine Ermes Quattro Quarti Nero d’Avola DOC Appassimento (14% ABV, 100% Nero d’Avola, 4 months in 500l oak barrels) is produced by Cantine Ermes we spoke about earlier this year – the coop of 2,355 producers, farming 26,000 acres across a number of provinces in Sicily. The wine was ready to drink from the get-go, offering beautiful dark berries medley with sweet oak, herbs, and a hint of dried fruit, exactly as one would expect when appassimento is involved – soft, layered, comforting, and dangerous – the bottle was gone very quickly, not being able to put the glass down.

This was a perfect example of the appassimento wine – yes, it didn’t have the power of Amarone, but it also didn’t need any cellaring time, offered instant gratification, and it is a lot more affordable. Definitely the wine worth seeking.

Now, what are your favorite appassimento wines – Amarone and not?

Daily Glass: Wine, Beautiful and Different

February 27, 2014 7 comments

Have you ever caught yourself using the same expression over and over again, to the point of being annoyed with oneself, but not been able to do anything about it? One of my expressions, pretty much a single word, is “beautiful”. Yes, of course I mean it in the wine context. The best case scenarios include the first “wow” once your nose encounters the aroma exuding from the glass, connecting to the “wow, this is beautiful” after the first sip, when aroma and bouquet altogether transform into a beautiful (oops, sorry), memorable experience. Yes, I know, reading the wine reviews consisting of “wow, this is beautiful” notes is somewhat pointless, and if it draws your ire, feel free to take it out in the comments section below – but I have to say it when it happens.

The wine I’m talking about today was exactly like that. I got this bottle from a friend back in October. The wine is made by his father in Sicily – a small family production, for all I understand. One consequence is the fact that there is no information available on internet – and the bottle doesn’t have a back label, so I can only share my impressions. But – it was a beautiful wine.

Contrada Santa Croce Chardonnay Grillo

The color of this 2012 Contrada Santa Croce Casteltermini Sicilia Cuvée Artisanale Chardonnay Grillot (13.5% ABV) was intense yellow with an orange hue – I don’t think the wine was aged in oak, but it was definitely fermented on the lees, and probably was aged on the lees for a good few month, to have such an intense color. It was also showing a bit cloudy in the glass – I can assume it was unfiltered.

And then there was was the nose. You know, that aroma which you can commonly pick up on many wines from Sicily –  the volcanic soils, the touch of sun and minerals, inviting and promising, with hint of lemon zest. And then the palate. Totally unique. Starting from light, dry, almost effervescent midpalate feel. Then showing mature fruit, apricot and apricot pit, finishing with mouthwatering acidity, prickling sides of the tongue with fresh lemon notes. One sip inviting another. Until the wine is gone, and you are left with the memory.

Let’s drink for the beautiful wines and people making them. Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: