Though it's raining and 63 degrees here today in Boston, it's still summer. That means our wine reps are bringing out all the clever white wines they can find to further enhance the shop's boutique selection of wines - before it gets more permanently chilly and whites lose some of their selling power. Yesterday I had the opportunity to try Cataratto, an interesting native grape varietal from Sicily, Italy, TWICE. It used to be (and perhaps still is ~ reports vary) the second most planted grape varietal in Italy. Still never heard of it? It also is/was more often used as a blending grape in wines like Marsala, you know the wine you've probably at least had once as part of the veal/chicken dish you ordered at your local Italian joint. (We'll save the longer story on why Marsala has been relegated to cooking status for another wine Wednesday post. Back to the specific wines then...)
The first offering of the day was the La Piazza Catarratto (100% Catarratto), a wine that sees no oak but does undergo some malolactic fermentation. Why do these details matter? When you're tasting a new (to you) varietal for the first time it is always interesting to find out how it was made to understand how 'authentic', if you will, the flavor profile is. Since this 100% offering is fermented in stainless steel tanks, the fruit's flavors unto themselves are better preserved. No oak nuances would be present in the wine. The malolactic fermentation process however can impart a creamier mouthfeel/texture, which may distract from a full appreciation of Catarratto in its birthday suit. Either way, I must admit I was pleasantly tickled by this wine (and it's low price). It offered notes of apricots and honey and then also delivered some citrus and light cream (the latter profile likely the result of the malolactic fermentation it underwent). It wasn't hugely layered with flavor, but for an everyday Italian white wine, this wasn't bad at all. A solid first impression was had.
Later in the day another rep strangely/ironically came by with a Catarratto/Grillo blend, made by Ajello and under the name Majus. Very cool once again. Grillo is also a native grape to Sicily (translates to cricket) often blended into Marsala. But it is becoming more and more known in the US as one of the best whites from the region on offer. It typically brings flowers and citrus to the table, with some tropical fruits and spice, too. It's a great match for fish dishes (think Mediterranean culture of the island). The blend of the two grapes was quite a delicious result! It had some umph to it, too. (I'll have to keep my eye out for another 'straight up' Catarratto sans malolactic fermentation, sans oak treatment, to see if that extra umph is something the varietal brings all on its own.)
Have you crossed paths with Catarratto? What's your take on it?