A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Carricante - Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy

Given that there are several thousand different grape varieties used for commercial wine production, I'm sure that everybody has a few that they are always getting confused.  I know that I personally have a lot of trouble keeping all of the Italian Ver-word grapes straight (Vermentino, Verdicchio, Vernaccia, Verduzzo and probably many more).  I also find myself struggling with Vespaiola and Vespolina, Albarola and Albanello, and today's grape, Carricante, and Catarratto.  Carricante and Catarratto are especially troublesome for me because both are white grapes that are found almost exclusively on the island of Sicily, though Catarratto is much more common than Carricante (Catarratto covers more than 100,000 acres in Sicily while Carricante manages a scant 250 or so).  I'm apparently not the only person with this problem, as Carricante is often erroneously called Catarratto in some parts of Sicily, though the grapes are definitely different cultivars and are not even related.  There's not a lot of things to say about Carricante, but I've summarized what I've found below and also have a review of a wine made mostly from Carricante with a little Catarratto thrown in for good measure.

Catarratto tends to be found on the western end of Sicily, in the heart of traditional Marsala country, while Carricante tends to be found around Mt. Etna in the east.  Carricante is thought to be native to the area of Viagrande, which is just southeast of Mt. Etna, and early written records indicate that Etna vintners used to barrel-age Carricante wines on their lees so that malolactic fermentation would kick in and soften the wines sharp acidic edge.  The name Carricante may be derived from the word carica, which means "load," because the grape is apparently a fairly prolific yielder.  If that is the case, then it seems odd that there isn't more Carricante planted, as wines made from the grape are increasingly recognized for their quality.  A paper published in 2010 (citation 1 below) found that Carricante's parents were two grapes called Montonico Pinto and Scacco, neither of which are familiar to me.  The Etna Bianco DOC requires that wines be made from at least 60% Carricante, though Etna Bianco Superiore requires 80% (and the grapes must come from Milo). Though I've never seen a wine made from Carricante outside of Sicily, the Italian agricultural census of 2000 reported 650 acres of Carricante throughout Italy, though only 250 of them are in Sicily.  I do now know where they are hiding the other 400 acres or so and would be interested in hearing from any readers who have come across this grape on the Italian mainland. 

I was able to find a bottle of the 2009 Graci "Quota 600" from Mt. Etna in Sicily, which is a blend of 70% Carricante and 30% Catarratto.  Carricante is typically blended with other Sicilian grapes, though varietal wines can be found as well.  I picked this wine up from my friends at the Wine Bottega for around $35.  In the glass the wine was a fairly light lemon gold color.  The nose was moderately intense with aromas of fresh cut lemon, green apple and river stones.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly high acidity.  There were tart, racy flavors of lemon and lemon peel, green apple, pear and a really intense stony minerality.  There wasn't a lot of complexity to this wine, but there was a lot of intensity.  It was really heavy on the citrus and stony minerals, and I really enjoyed drinking the wine, but the steep price tag is a little difficult to justify for what you get.  My bottling also had a minor cork failure with some seepage around the cork, but I don't think that it threw the wine off in any way.

Cipriani, G. et al. The SSR-based molecular profile of 1005 grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) accessions uncovers new synonymy and parentages, and reveals a large admixture amongst varieties of different geographic origin. 2010. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 121: 1569-1585.

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