Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Little Sicilian Carricante

I saw our next bottle a month or so ago at one of the government signature stores and grabbed it - taste untried -because it'd make another grand addition to my Wine Century Club tally. As coincidence would have, the winery was serving its wines at the Vancouver International Wine Festival that just finished and I had an opportunity to try the wine there. It seemed to be a perfectly good omen that I crack open the bottle and give it a more comprehensive taste.

1267. 2010 Planeta Carricante (Sicilia IGT - Italy)

Although the Planeta family has owned its Sicilian estate since the 1600's, the winery is a relative newcomer, having been started in the mid-1980's by two Planeta cousins and an uncle. A third cousin joined up not long after. The familial entrepreneurs are known for having spent their initial years "matching the extraordinarily diverse Sicilian soils with both indigenous and international grape varieties." The end result (so far) has been a collection of five distinct wineries around the island and a reputation as one of the premier wine estates in Sicily. The winery regularly wins awards for its portfolio, surprising many who are used to the more commonly found Sicilian bulk wines.

The Carricante varietal wine is the company's first venture in the area surrounding Mount Etna - a new and upcoming region in Sicily - and this 2010 is only the second vintage of the wine.

The grape variety doesn't even show up in the Oxford Companion to Wine; however, it does merit mention in the new tome on grapes, Wine Grapes, by Jancis Robinson et al. The grape seems to be most closely identified with Sicily and the Mount Etna region but it is apparently grown elsewhere in Italy as well. I presume it is used mostly for blending in other regions because I didn't see any references online to non-Sicilian varietal wines. Indeed, Carricante is even used for blending Etna Bianco DOC and Etna Bianco Superiore wines.

The Planeta wine is a 100% varietal wine though and there's no real surprise why Planeta choose to bottle their Carricante in a Riesling bottle. The wine has cracking acidity and big mineral notes - the latter characteristic invariably coming from the volcanic, black lava sand of Mount Etna that the grapes are grown in. The variety is often noted for its aromas of orange, grapefruit and aniseed but we didn't particularly find any of those characteristics on our tasting.

The wine was aged on its lees (spent yeast cells) for up to four months in stainless steel - apparently this is a fairly common tactic for winemakers hoping to counter-balance the grape's vibrant acidity.

At $35 in the government liquor store, this is a little hefty on the wallet for an unknown white wine,  and I don't know that it excited me enough to be a regular pour at home. It does bring me up to #149 on my Wine Century Club tally though and, to me, that discovery is worth a little extra coin. I surely wouldn't say "no" to a little vacay to the slopes of Mt. Etna and Sicily to try some more.

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