Today’s cellar note takes us to one of our favorite vacation spots…Sicily. The prospect of sipping this delightful Grillo took me back to Sicily’s rolling hills covered with a combination of olive trees, vineyards, pastures and picturesque rural towns. It brought back memories of open-air markets, Baroque churches and arancini. Now I’m longing to return.
A quick review of the Grillo entry in Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, including their Origins and Flavours tells me that this Sicilian variety is a natural cross of Catarratto Bianco and Muscat of Alexandria (Zibibbo in Sicily). It has been replaced as a major component of Marsala by Catarratto Bianco and Inzolia because they are higher yielding in the vineyard. Grillo is vigorous in the vineyard, mid ripening, susceptible to powdery mildew and resists cold. It yields wines that are floral, herbaceous and full-bodied.
2016 Alessandro Viola Sinfonia di Grillo, Terre Siciliane IGT — cloudy, nearly amber color in the glass with aromas and flavors of cinnamon, bruised apple, earth, iron and minerals. The wine is mid-weight and textural with interesting umami flavors. 12.5% abv. $37
Nothing in the flavor profile of this wine reminded me of the Grillo we tasted while in Italy or since, which were crisp and a bit savory. This Grillo goes in an entirely different direction because of the way it is made. It’s a fun sip and we really enjoyed the different flavors.
Pair this wine with any dish that has umami flavors. The flavors of the wine will blend right in.
According to information provided by Les Marchands wine club, Alessandro Viola is a very small producer located in the northwest corner of Sicily south of Palermo. Alessandro farms 17 acres of indigenous grape varieties, including Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Catarratto in addition to Grillo. He farms biodynamically, which is always a plus in my book.
The Sinfonia di Grillo is fermented with indigenous yeast in stainless steel and the must macerates on the skin for 6 days. After fermentation the wine ages in chestnut barrels for 7 months. This is a skin-contact white wine that fits into the orange wine category. It’s yummy.