Catarratto, a white low-acidity grape, accounts for more than 60 percent of Sicily’s grape production, making it one of the island’s most characteristic grapes.
You’ll usually find Catarratto in wine blends that are easy to drink and enjoy on a hot summer day. Don’t think Catarratto is light, despite what some people say, though — the end result depends on the blend but Catarratto is a full-bodied and imposing grape.
What is unique about this grape, and which wines should you try if you would like to get a taste of Catarratto?
Catarratto: A Brief History
Catarratto has been cultivated for centuries. It became especially popular and well-known during the 20th century when Sicilian cooperatives overwhelmingly favoured this white grape because of its high yield.
The low-acidity grape became known as one that produced pleasant white wines that anyone could chug down — but true connoisseurs would pass over. In short, Catarratto gained a reputation for being bland and mediocre. However, the grape is no longer seen as boring because Catarratto is now incorporated into some exciting wines. Catarratto adds lemony and juicy flavours that make for a well-rounded wine in the right blend.
Mostly planted in the Western part of the Island, Catarratto represents today about 33% of the Sicilian vineyard, with a significant concentration in the provinces of Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo. Used as a primary variety in the DOC Sicilia wines, it is also used as the main grape in several local appellations, such as Alcamo, Marsala, Menfi, Santa Margherita di Belìce.
The Catarratto grape has two main phenotypes:
- Catarratto Bianco Comune, known for its bloom.
- Catarratto Bianco Lucido, a glossier grape with limited bloom.
A third variety, Catarratto Bianco Extra Lucido, does not bloom at all. Interestingly, despite the different characteristics, which initially made people think they were dealing with distinct varieties, all these Catarratto phenotypes share identical DNA. Catarratto is likely descended from the Garganega grape, which has a richer and more varied flavour.
Researches on the DNA of Catarratto have finally clarified that Catarratto is the father of Grillo, through its natural crossing with Zibibbo, and the ancient father of Garganega, one the most ancient white grapes of Northern Italy.
Which Wines Contain Catarratto Grapes?
Many Etna DOC wines have Catarratto. Etna DOC bianco wines must contain at least 60 percent Carricante, an ancient and distinctly more acidic grape. Minella Bianca, another Sicilian grape characterized by a mild aniseed flavour, is often found alongside Carricantte and Catarratto in Etna DOC wines.
Standard Alcamo DOC white wines contain Catarratto by definition — at least 60 percent. In this case, the grape can be blended with Sauvignon, Inzolia, Chardonnay, and Grillo, among others, resulting in a dry to semi-sweet white wine.
IGT wines may incorporate Catarratto too. Because these wines have looser rules, they can feature a variety of grapes, including (but certainly not limited to) Chardonnay, Inzolia, and Grillo.
Marsala, the very famous Sicilian fortified wine, represents Catarratto very well.
What Does Catarratto Taste Like?
Catarratto can produce full-bodied wines with strong hints of lemon and a heavy velvety resin, tone. The result depends, to a large extent, on the blend, and wine that contains Catarratto may be brut to demi-sec.
These wines are best served with traditional Sicilian dishes like antipasti and fish dishes. However, Catarratto also pairs well with mushroom risotto or pasta carbonara. Don’t be afraid to get creative, though — many people swear Catarratto wines and sushi make for a beautiful combination.
What does Catarratto wine taste like?
Catarratto is the most planted white grape in Sicily, its taste have similarities with Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc due to its floral and citrusy aromas, resulting in a fresh and light/medium bodied white wine.
What kind of wine is Catarratto?
A dry, medium/light body with medium acidity. It is also used to create Etna DOC wine, blended with another Sicilian grape like Carricante, It’s a great wine to pair with Sicilian vegetable dishes, antipasti, lighter fish dishes, or a vongole pasta.
What is Catarratto similar to?
Catarratto is a popular Sicilian white grape and has great similarities with Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh, medium bodied and acidity, Catarratto delivers a great experience on the palate.