Carricante (white)

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[Grape Variety]

Carricante is said to come from Viagrande in the province of Catania on the Italian island of Sicily, and Catania is home to the majority of Italy's 252 hectares of this variety, which performs especially well on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna.

The Etna Bianco denomination must include at least 60% Carricante, and the Superiore version at least 80%, although varietal wines are also common.

Even though the best Carricante wines can have great aromatic complexity, scented with delicate citrus notes (lemon, grapefruit, occasionally orange) but also lightly floral and herbal, even cedary, they still have a marked stony character. Ageing on the lees - a practice documented in the region as far back as the late 18th century - adds a creamy texture that finely balances the variety's refreshing acidity. Styles vary from aromatic to more steely but they tend to share the mineral character of other Etna wines.

Try examples from Benanti, Biondi, Graci, Girolamo Russo, I Vigneri, Planeta (especially Eruzione 1614), Valenti. Gulfi's bone-dry Carjcante from Ragusa, south-eastern Sicily has remarkable length and complexity and shows a hint of honey after a couple of years in bottle. The 2011 is particularly good.

Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz; www.winegrapes.org

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