12 Days of Vinebox: Day 7

31 12 2018

By Raymond Lamontagne

Day 7 finds us sampling different wines from the same winery in close succession, presenting us with another native Sicilian grape, from the very same producer as Day 6. Or is it grapes, plural? What I’m glomming onto right away is the name “Inzolia Catarratto” on the vial. “Inzolia” is reminiscent of “Trebbiano”, in that this name actually refers to numerous white grape varieties that are in fact distinct. Most commonly this word is an incorrect but still commonly used moniker for Ansonica, a widely planted, golden-skinned, low acid Sicilian variety that has also made some inroads into Tuscany. Which brings us to Catarratto. This is another broadly planted Sicilian white grape, in this case in the high-acid camp. Yup, this is a 50-50 blend of Ansonica and Catarratto, two workhorses, presumably intended to capitalize on a balance between Inzolia’s relative bulk and Catarratto’s fresher edge.

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Ansonica is interesting in that it is so prevalent in the hot Sicilian climate despite being a low acid variety. On the plus side, it is drought-resistant. Turns out that Tuscany might be a better locale for it despite this grape’s Sicilian roots; in Sicily the wines tend to be citrusy and light-bodied, whereas in Tuscan island regions such as Elba the grape yields sturdier, richer wines that recall golden orchard fruits with a saline bite. In either case, Ansonica is also a rare example of a naturally tannic white grape. The name Catarratto (or Catarratto Bianco) means “waterfall”, which refers not to some pretty landscape feature but rather to the effusive quantities of wine this grape is capable of producing. Hoooo boy… When a grape name refers to a wine lake rather than some unique aspect of of its vinous personality, one has to wonder how it’s going to show in the glass. In any event, Ian D’Agata compares Catarratto to Chardonnay, stating that it can conjure up notes of savoury herbs, banana and butter. He also acknowledges that these conceits might have more to do with wine-making technique than they do with any innate characteristics of the grape itself (which, hey, actually does sound rather like Chardonnay). The technical sheet on the Feudo Solaria website reassures us that we can pair the wine with snapper, “with no fear of being banal”. Hmmm… Maybe there’s at least a little fear.

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As one might expect, this wine sees temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks, followed by a few months aging in steel (plus bottle) before release. The nose is subtle and needs some olfactory chasing, but does eventually reveal some pleasing floral aromas: yellow acacia or gorse, white Baby’s Breath and camellia (tea blossoms). Underneath the florals is a confected bedrock that recalls lemon Starburst chews and a faint whiff of banana cream pie. But only on the nose. Alas, the “ripe pears and peaches” promised on the palate elude me, in favour of screeching, testy green apples, lemon and lime pith, quartz, and masticated grass. Perhaps a little nectarine or white peach does manage to wink through, but this is faint at best.

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This does have more body than the other Vinebox whites thus far, and a little scratchiness that serves to potentiate the tea-like impression. This is one time when I’d like a larger sample to review, as over the course of sips the stark angry palate and dainty nose do start to meet in the middle. Oh well. I went chasing waterfalls, and the glass is now empty.

86 points

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