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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Calgary Wine Life: Sicilian Master Class @ Theatre Junction Grand

31 10 2013

Quick:  name a Sicilian wine producer.  Did you say Planeta?  Me too.  Name another one.  To my embarrassment, I couldn’t.  My list of known Sicilian producers ends at one.  This fairly sizeable void in my wine knowledge is particularly galling because, believe it or not, Sicily is the biggest wine-producing region in Italy:  it actually produces more wine per year than Australia, more than Chile and Bordeaux combined.  So why does it continue to have such a low profile?  Because, up until recently, the wine produced was not generally of high quality and was often sold off in bulk to other parts of the country instead of bottled on its own.  Even now, less than 20% of Sicily’s annual production is bottled for individual sale, and only 5% or so comes from a legally designated DOC region.  But there is currently a quality revolution underway in Sicily, one that has been brewing since the 1980s and that has seen many longstanding producers forego high yields and the sale of their crops by the ton in favour of more meticulous growing and winemaking practices and the creation of better wines under their own labels.  This week I got the chance to witness this transformation midstream.

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