Italian white grape varieties continue to grow in popularity as wine drinkers begin to explore the diversity on offer.
There are plenty of factors that have helped this along: increased plantings of these varieties across Australia given their suitability to our climate has certainly helped.
Tourism to various parts of Italy where the local grape varieties appear on every wine list has played its role as has the relative affordability of the wines compared to locals and more sought-after white wines from around the globe. Not to
mention the improvements in viticultural and winemaking technique across Italy.
Sicilian red varieties have found their way to several Australian regions already, but their whites are still a little undiscovered. They can offer great value at the lower end, particularly varieties that were formerly out of favour such as Grillo.
Most of the Grillo plantings in Italy are found in Sicily where it is one of the principal varieties used in the production of Marsala – a fortified wine that ranges from dry to sweet in style and most can only be labelled as such if it comes from the area around the city of Marsala on Sicily’s western coast. Like most fortified wines, it is not particularly popular today and thus other avenues need to be explored.
There are a couple of paths taken, one is to pursue the techniques employed by natural and orange wine producers by employing skin contact and introducing more oxygen during the winemaking process to produce wines with rich texture, nutty, floral and honeyed tones.
The other is to keep it simple an retain the citrus, tropical fruits, minerals, and slightly floral notes within a crisp, dry framework.
A pretty simple way of looking at it is to think as wine blog, Wine folly, does – a fuller, funkier alternative to Pinot Grigio.
Colomba Bianca Granataey Grillo – $23
Colomba Bianca is one of the largest organic producers in Europe, and the largest co-operative in Sicily.
Co-operatives are more common in Europe where growers pool their resources to reduce the cost of winemaking and marketing efforts per grower. Colomba Bianco are aiming to move their organic production from 25% to 50% of their total over the coming years as well as being Vegan friendly. Their Granatey Grillo is produced in a gentle, straightforward manner – cool ferments, gentle pressing and a short period in tank for 5 months before bottling to capture and retain plenty of freshness.
It shows a slightly riper fruit spectrum of the grape with stone and tropical fruits leading the way. Lovely fresh acidity keeps it lively and crisp.
Poggio Anima Grillo – $22
Poggio Anima is the collaboration of producer Le Ragnaie and importer Vine street imports. While Grillo handles the warm climate of Siciliy well, in hot years such as 2017 sourcing fruit from a little higher altitude helps to retain ample acidity levels. Poggio Anima source their fruit from growers not far from Marsala in the hills. Their winemaking is also quite straight-forward although the grapes spend a few hours on skins and in contact with lees before bottling.
Both techniques lend a little more complexity to the texture of the wine and also give it a slightly broader, softer mouthfeel before finish crisp and dry.