August Dirt 2017 – Catarratto

Catarratto is the most important Italian grape you’ve never heard of. In fact, It is the second most planted grape in all of Italy after Sangiovese. Even more surprising is the fact that most, if not all Catarratto, is grown on the island of Sicily. Why the need for so much Catarratto? Well the answer is bulk wine. Catarratto (along with another white grape called Grillo) is mostly used as a blending wine in Marsala production, which has become highly industrialized. However Catarratto, in the right hands, can be so much more.

If you’re main intention is to grow grapes for quantity over quality, then Catarratto is a good vine to plant because it grows vigorously, is low maintenance and has a high output of grapes, or high “yields.” But if you are a winemaker concerned with only the highest quality, then low yields are your goal. You can accomplish this by pruning the vines, restricting water, and taking great care to only select the finest grapes from your crop. Under these conditions, Catarratto can produce a stunning dry white full of complexity and personality.  Fortunately the two winemakers we’ve selected for this month’s Dirt club fall into the latter category, in a big way.


Bartoli IGT Bianco Sicilia Lucido Catarratto 2015 – $20.99/btl

Marco Bartoli started his career as a race care driver with an insatiable need for speed. After a few years, he decided to settle down and return to his Sicilian farming roots and resurrect his family winery. He was also dismayed at the aforementioned turn toward industrialization Marsala had taken, and took it upon himself to bring some respect back to the craft of Marsala production. He sought to reproduce the Marsala the old fashioned way using only Grillo grapes with organic techniques, and even used some of the original wine barrels from old Marsala producers in the area.  He has meticulously brought back a centuries-old tradition of winemaking and continues to produce some of the finest Marsalas in Sicily.

Around the mid to late 90s, Marco’s three children found an interest in their father’s activities and joined him in the vineyards. This new, younger perspective on winemaking inspired an expansion of sorts into new dry white wines, specifically Zibbibo and the wine for this month’s club, Bianco Sicilia Lucido Catarratto. The “Lucido” in this case refers to a specific clone of Catarratto and is widely considered the finer clone when compared to the “Commune” variety that is used for bulk Marsala production. On the nose you will find an intense rush of exotic, perfumed citrus fruit, and bright wet stone. The palate does a delightful dance between bracing acidity and round creaminess, highlighted by notes of lemon zest, green apple and stoney minerality with a touch of honeysuckle on the finish. When pairing, do as the Sicilian’s do and try it with poached lobster, some mussel soup, or some spicy small sardines from Jose Gourmet, which of course be found in the Dedalus food market section in our shop.


Guccione Sicilia “C” 2014 – $46.99/btl

The motto in Manfredi Guccione’s vineyard is “Stu Vina fa respirare l’anima” which loosely translates to “this wine helps the soul to breath.” We couldn’t agree more. Guccione’s vineyard is located in the Northwest corner of Sicily in a DOC called Monreale. Here he has perfected organic and biodynamic growing techniques with native Sicilian grapes and never blends any of his wines, it’s always one grape, one bottle. Working land that has been in his family for generations, Manfredi follows in the footsteps of his great grandfather who used to make wine among the many horses he tended. He too cut the yields from his vines in the early 2000s in order to focus on quality, and instilled ancient Sicilian techniques of natural winemaking, producing wines that indeed “help the soul to breath.”

The names of Guccione’s wines are simply named with one or two letters, this month we will be tasting the “C”, for Catarratto. This is an “orange” wine as it undergoes 10 days of extended skin contact, and is aged for over a year before it is released. This makes for an extremely interesting complexity in the wine, giving it texture without the weight. The nose is full of herbal green apple, citrus fruit and a spicey, honeyed aroma. The palate has notes of baked brown apple, herbal flowers, green olive, and an undertone of smokey lime zest. Some excellent pairings would be a nice shellfish plate, a roasted cornish game hen, or a fabulous Italian sheep’s cheese such as Fiore Dolce, which can be found behind Dedalus’ own cheese counter.