This Grillo from L’arca was the first bottle of wine I tried from Martha Stewart Wine Co.
Sicilian White Wines You Need to Know: Grillo
We’ve already done a post about an intro to Sicilian reds, covering Frappato, a native red grape. Later this month I will also be discussing Negro Amaro, another classic varietal for that region and Southern Italy. However, for now, it’s time for the whites!
I’m so excited to talk to you about Grillo. In the words of Jancis Robinson, Grillo is an “increasingly popular high-quality, full-bodied western Sicilian white.” Grillo is a grape that is quite vigorous, meaning it can over-produce and yield low quality and low-flavor wines if left unchecked.
What does Grillo Taste Like?
These wines have a medium body, bright yellow and green apple notes with elements of almonds and honey. I love these wines. They are typically quite inexpensive and usually pack a bang for your buck.
I find the flavors of lower quality Grillo to be like Pinot Grigio from Trentino or Veneto, and high-quality examples to be closer to a Chardonnay-meets-Sauvignon Blanc with grassy and floral notes. These wines can be very full-bodied due to the hot climate and full of flavor. Some producers will incorporate Lees aging, others will keep it youthful and fresh.
Fun fact, Grillo is also the primary grape used in Marsala, the famous fortified wine from Sicily!
Let’s talk about Sicily’s climate
According to The Wine Of Sicily website, about 80% of the wine-growing happens in just 3 provinces in Sicily: Trapani, Agrigento, and Palermo. Trapani grows about 50% of the total output of these three provinces. Wow!
Sicily has been producing wines for centuries — and did you know that Marsala DOC was the first designated origin in Italy?
The climate in Sicily is IDEAL. Literally – it’s PERFECT for growing grapes. Not many regions can say that. However – grapes need to struggle to be delicious. If they get everything they need, they overproduce and become watery and less flavorful. Some people parallel this idea to children — if you give them everything they want when they want it, they will grow up and have shallow roots. They’ll be spoiled and rotten, and when storms come they won’t weather them well.
However, vines that learn to struggle and survive will persevere when those storms come. They will produce a beautiful wine, with flavor, minerality, and the wine will tell a story. This could be a bit romantic, but I believe it’s true.
It’s this idyllic climate that brought the downfall of Sicily’s wine reputation – they didn’t prune the vines or keep them from overproducing because they wanted to sell as much wine as they could. The wines were sloppy and of poor quality. People noticed. So now things are once more changing, for the better!
The climate is still ideal, but winemakers have grown and learned their lessons. They are once again taking pride in the work they do and the product they sell. That’s not to say that all wine from the region is high quality. However, it is to say that the wines are currently very undervalued. So you’ll see lower prices right now, but I urge you — don’t discriminate just based on price.
The Story Behind L’Arca:
Piergiorgio Castellani is the wine marker for L’Arca, which means “the arc.” The story goes that Piergiorgio wanted to save the native varietals of Italy that were going extinct due to the high demand for “more popular” varietals that could fetch a higher price (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot are just a few examples of varietals that replaced many native grapes).
These wines are not expensive in any way, however, they do attempt to give a sense of terroir and cultural history with a pocket-friendly price. I purchased this particular Grillo at Martha Stewart Wine Co. Check back soon for a blog post on how it’s turning out so far.
The wines are made from organic grapes, from a variety of regions within the Sicilian area. There was no oak used, also keeping the price low, creating a fresh and simple wine.
L’Arca Grillo 2020 Sicily Wine Review
Sight: This wine is silver and clear.
Nose: This wine has simple elements of green and yellow apple, fresh lemon juice, and fresh pear, with moderate intensity.
Palate: This wine has moderate + intensity on the palate, medium alcohol, medium-plus acidity, a medium minus finish, and a light body. There are notes of green apple, lemon, and pear.
Assessment: This is an acceptable wine, with everything in balance, but overall quite simple. Drink now, do not age.
Food Pairing: Pan Seared white fish with a cream sauce or beurre blanc, and a side of charred asparagus/broccoli/red onions.
Final thoughts: If you like crisp, refreshing, fruit-forward whites without oak, I would recommend this to you! If you’re looking for something more complex, try to find a higher quality wine. I purchased this Grillo at a discount from Martha Stewart Wine Co. on sale for $9.99 (typically $17.99). It can be found in some markets, like Vivino, for about $12.60. That being said, if you are curious to try a higher quality Grillo with a bit more complexity and character, check out this example on Vivino by Donnafugata. Otherwise, if you’re just getting into Grillo and want to see a lighter and simpler version – by all means get this one! You know what sounds good to you.
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