The 7 best Grillo wines of Sicily chosen by Gambero Rosso

Jun 2 2024, 15:35
Today, Grillo is arguably the most interesting Sicilian grape variety, with many facets. Here are the labels that we liked the most this year and that we awarded with Tre Bicchieri and Due Bicchieri Rossi

Sicily has been showcasing extraordinary dynamism for some time, positioning itself prominently in both the Italian and international markets. While the great rise of Sicilian wines, the “Sicilian Renaissance” of a few years ago, was driven by reds, primarily Nero d'Avola, in recent years, we have seen a grand return of the whites. More than half of Sicily's Tre Bicchieri 2024 awards go to classy whites made from indigenous grapes. These wines are complex, deep, capable of evolving over time, and irresistibly drinkable.

Among these is certainly Grillo, a wine with many identities, which could be described as Pirandellian. Created in the second half of the 19th century as a cross between the two native grape varieties Catarratto and Zibibbo (or Muscat of Alexandria) by the initiative of Baron Antonio Mendola, an agronomist and ampelographer, it was long used in fortified wines (and continues to be a key player in DOC Marsala). Later, it was discovered that excellent dry versions could also be produced, always highlighting acidity and the rich sweetness of the fruit simultaneously. Grillo is a versatile grape that can be shaped by the climate, the soils, the vineyard management, and the winemaking practices. Perhaps it is these complex and somewhat elusive characteristics that form the basis of its growing success, making it the most interesting white wine in the current Sicilian wine scene.

Nielsen data on the Grillo phenomenon

At a dedicated conference organized at Vinitaly last April, the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Doc Sicilia defined Grillo as a success story, with rising international markets. According to Nielsen data, Grillo consumption has returned to pre-2019 levels. According to the Consorzio, led by Antonio Rallo, this is a sign of market resilience, followed by real growth peaks. In 2023, Grillo recorded increases of 20% in volume, 19% in value, and 15% in packaged quantities compared to the previous year. "These are values," highlights the Consorzio, "never reached before."

A growth in both volumes and values reaffirms its role as an ambassador of the territory and Sicily DOC wines worldwide," emphasized President Rallo, noting that among the more than 70 native varieties of the region, Grillo stands out as a symbol of the growing prestige of DOC Sicily wines. Significant figures also come from the German market data: considering only sales in organized large-scale distribution, DOC Sicily sold nearly 3 million bottles of Grillo in 2023.

Gorghi Tondi- Mazara del Vallo

The best Grillo wines of Sicily

Here are the Grillo wines awarded with Tre Bicchieri and Due Bicchieri Rossi in Gambero Rosso's Guida Vini d'Italia 2024.

Kheirè 2022 by Tenuta Gorghi Tondi. This pure Grillo, noted for its pronounced freshness, richness, elegance, and precision, deservedly received Tre Bicchieri. The estate, immense and set in a beautiful environmental and landscape context, is a few steps from the sea, with two fascinating lakes, also a WWF Natural Reserve, acquired by the Sala family at the end of the 19th century. Father Michele developed its characteristics of sun, nature, and beauty, leaving the diligent daughters Annamaria and Clara, supported by their mother Doretta, the task of continuing his work in the name of the quality, drinkability, and clear elegant character of the wines.

Family and Friends Firraru 2021 by Feudo Maccari (Igt 100% Grillo). Awarded Tre Bicchieri, this wine offers a broad and pleasant bouquet evoking lemon blossom, lavender, yellow fruit, and almond; driven by acidity, the palate is fresh and savory, with a satisfying finish. The arrival of Alberto and Amedeo Moretti Cuseri at the company has given new impetus to this prestigious Sicilian winery in Val di Noto, not so much from a qualitative point of view, which has always remained very high, but in terms of new projects and communication methods. The maison, already certified organic, has further invested in sustainability and continues to focus on the area's native grape varieties, cultivated as bush vines, such as Nero d'Avola and Grillo.

Bianco Maggiore '22 by Rallo. Awarded Due Bicchieri Rossi, this Grillo has a very fine and personal floral and fruity bouquet; the fruit is fresh, citrusy, savory, with a slightly bitter finish. A historic Marsala winery founded in 1860, it was acquired in 1997 by the Vesco family, who cultivate their own vineyards in Pattipiccolo, between Monreale and Alcamo. In 2007, Andrea Vesco, who leads the company, began converting the lands to organic. The grapes come from three areas: Pattipiccolo, with the largest extension, 68 hectares; Piane Liquide, ten hectares of Grillo near the Stagnone Reserve; and two hectares of bush-trained Zibibbo in the Bugeber district of Pantelleria.

Grillo Carolina Marengo Kisa '22 by Feudi del Pisciotto. Awarded Due Bicchieri Rossi, this wine is one of the products of the Niscemi (CL) winery.

Grillo d'Altura '22 by Tenute Lombardo Vini. This wine reached the finals, obtaining Due Bicchieri Rossi. It has an intense nose with distinct aromas of citrus peel, pittosporum flowers, and fresh herbs; on the palate, the acidity provides great freshness, it is savory, consistent, and long-lasting.

Quèto '21 by the central winery of Lago Arancio. Awarded Due Bicchieri Rossi, this wine has a wide and enveloping olfactory profile, with tropical aromas of mango and papaya fused with notes of plum, jasmine, and broom; balanced and harmonious, it well combines delicate acidity and marked sapidity. The central winery of Lago Arancio, the operational heart of the Mezzacorona Group, an international wine player, was built based on the ancient structure of the island's baglio. The vineyards are located along the windy coasts of Sambuca and Acate, producing wines that are intense and expressive of the best "Sicilianity," from both native and international cultivars, highly appreciated in all markets. This year again, all wines, both white and red, demonstrate commendable consistency linked to the terroir-variety relationship.

SM (Santa Margherita) by Arianna Occhipinti. In the vicinity of Chiaramonte Gulfi, where Arianna has been cultivating the raw material for this macerated Grillo since 2016, the 2021 vintage reached the finals with Due Bicchieri Rossi: it has a bouquet with elegant marine and herbaceous notes of caper and salicornia with a hint of hydrocarbons; on the palate, it is savory, deep, and fleshy. In full harmony with her land, Arianna "listens" and interprets the story told by the vineyards she knows and cares for with dedication at each harvest: they are located in the noblest part of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria area, along an ancient road between Gela and Kamarina. The winery with the palmento is located in the Fossa di Lupo district; the other company crus are in the areas of Bombolieri, Bastonaca, and Pettineo. In the cellar as in the vineyard, the raw material is free to express itself naturally.

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