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The Grillo Grape


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About Grillo

(Synonyms: Arridu, Riddu, Rossese Bianco)

Background

Map showing Sicily

Grillo is a white-wine grape originating in Sicily (or possibly, before that, from Puglia, though that seems unlikely—best bet is that it’s a native of Sicily). It is today almost exclusively a Sicilian wine, though as Rossesse Bianco a little is also grown in Liguria.

Its major virtue in the vineyard is that it can withstand really high temperatures and drought and still produce copiously. It also tends to quite high alcohol contents, which makes it a prime candidate for being left on the vine long enough to produce sweet dessert wines (which is why it is what Marsala is classically made from). Grown as a dry table wine, it needs considerable caution to make anything that isn’t bland and nearly tasteless; thus, care is needed in selecting particular bottlings if disappointment is to be avoided. As you will see below, Grillo gets little respect from most reviewers; yet Jancis Robinson (whom we mainly follow in selecting grapes to write about) shows it as at least capable of making pretty decent wine.

Grillo is not a strongly aromatic or flavored wine, but at its best it is full-bodied, earthy almost to the point of astringency, and can be bottle-aged to benefit. It will have a creamy feel (though with some acidity), and a sense of faint and indistinct but broad-spectrum fruit flavors, tending toward the citrus-y.

There seem to be two different types of Grillo vines, and they reportedly make differing wines. So also is the difference between “coastal” and higher-altitude Grillos supposed to matter nontrivially, with coastal generally preferred. Most often, it seems, one encounters blends of these different types. (There are four official clones of Grillo: Regione Sicilia 297, VFP 91, VFP 92, and VFP 93.)

The biotypes are known simply as “A” and “B”, and are described thus (from Giampiero Nadali):

The problem is that it is virtually impossible to know a priori which wine is of which biotype—in fact, most of the growers do not themselves yet know of which types their vines are. Nadali states that most vines today are of the “A” type, in part because it is more productive; local producers hope, however, to re-introduce the “B” type to wider use.

Factoid: Grillo was used in one of Julius Caesar’s favorite wines, the sweet Mamertino of Messina.

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Some Descriptions of Grillo Wines

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Some Grillos to Try

(About this list.)

Feudo Montoni “Vigna della Timpa” Grillo
(Don’t confuse this with their basic “G” Grillo.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Tasca d’Almerita “Tenuta Regaleali” “Cavallo delle Fate” Grillo
(This wine is sold under various fragments of its full name; look for “Cavallo delle Fate” Grillo.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Donnafugata “SurSur” Grillo

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Valle dell’Acate “Zagra” Grillo

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

We found no generally available Grillo wines better enough than those listed above as to justify a “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Saturday, 18 January 2020, at 1:24 am Pacific Time.