Last week, I had the pleasure to taste Italian wine at Vin Vino Wine in Palo Alto, California. This wonderful wine bar features different flights every day, and I was lucky enough to come in on Italy day, where I got to try my first Carricante. What a treat.
Carricante is an ancient white wine grape variety that is indigenous to Sicily, Italy. It is thought to have been growing on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna for at least a thousand years. There are around 200 hectares (500 acres) of plantings on the island. The best examples come from vines grown in volcanic soils at high altitude.
Carricante is the key grape behind white wines made under the Etna DOC title. In fact, it is required in all of the denomination’s white wines: 60 percent minimum in the standard Etna Bianco and 80 percent in Etna Bianco Superiore. I was lucky enough to try an Etna Bianco that was 100% Carricante. The wine was made by Tornatore.
The variety is known for its marked acidity, and the high yields which gave rise to its name (carica means “load” in Italian). Wine Folly calls it Sicily’s answer to dry Riesling.
What to Expect from this Grape
When tasting this grape, look for aromas of citrus, green apple, orange blossom, and peach, with mineral notes of crushed rocks and salty air. The tasting notes on the wine I tried mentioned white peach, orange peel, crushed thyme and subtle, smoky flavors that mix well with fresh and dried-herb notes. I was thrilled to read these notes, because I quickly picked up on the smokiness and dried herbs. Had I not had those notes, I wouldn’t have been able to name what I was experiencing.
Wine Folly also talks about a diesel aroma, a la an aged Riesling, saying that this aroma comes from a naturally occurring aromatic compound that increases as wines age. All wines have it, but it’s more noticeable in aromatic whites like Riesling, Carricante, Furmint (Hungary), and Rkatsiteli (Eastern Europe).
With its high acidity and subtle saline notes, Carricante is a great choice to match alongside spicy, aromatic foods such as Thai dishes and curries.
In honor of Sicily, you might also want to pair this wine with traditional Sicilian dishes, including Arancini (small balls of rice stuffed with a savory filling, coated in breadcrumbs and fried), caponata (eggplant salad), beccafico (stuffed sardines) and pasta with sardines, anchovies and fennel.
Have you tried Carricante? What did you think?