I had heard about Alice Bonaccorsi’s carricante long before I started bicycling up Sicily’s Mount Etna, the active volcano on the eastern part of the island. Lately, the white grape has been turning up on more and more top lists, including 3 of my favourite sommeliers and wine writers. An odd grape, it tastes of citrus, pink apples and bread, by which, it’s usually understood to mean ‘yeasty’, a tang and mineraly punch that you won’t soon forget.
Alice was away the day I visited but her husband Rosario couldn’t have been more gracious, or eager for me to taste their wines.
‘So many have either a ‘love’ or ‘hate’ relationship to carricante’, said Rosario. ‘And not because the grape is bad, but because it’s so atypical, especially when so much wine style has begun to mesh a bit, all around the world. Few know what to expect when tasting it’.
My nose down into the glass I find the perfumes that I expect, citrus and white river stones, yeast and a little wet earth, like rain glazed flowerpots.
‘Etna is such an engima’, he says as he sips his own wine. ‘The fact that the volcano is something of a cone, that the grapes ripen in horizontal rings around the base of the mountain, that carricante is such a litimus for the minerals in the soil, the ancient spewed lava that feel in irregular patterns. We’re 4th generation and only now starting to understand it’.
We spent the afternoon together, working our way through all of their wines, the winery’s dog circling and then laying at our feet for most of it. Rosario gave me a bottle as I peddled down the mountain, his carricante going beautifully with that night’s seafood, so fresh and minerally, still dripping with drops of pearly water, straight out of the strait of Messina.
Sicily’s carricante is one of the ‘Terronia Twelve’, the varietals that we’ve selected as the most important in getting to know the wine of Southern Italy: la Sicilia, la Calabria, la Basilicata and la Puglia. Click through to learn more about Terronia: the New Wine School of Southern Italy.