Along with Spain’s Sherry and Portugal’s Madeira is the other (once?) great oxidized/sweet wine from Italy – Sicily to be precise – known to the world as Marsala. For reasons too numerous and convoluted to go into here, over time Marsala fell to a distant third in the competitive trade of these types of wines, and to some degree due in part to this sag, the fine grape varieties that make up this once great wine that is now most frequently relegated to making cookies or certain preparations of veal, became even more obscure, locked under the waning name of Marsala or at very least within the shores of the Sicilian island.
The four grape varieties that can be used to make Marsala are Insolia, Catarratto, Damaschina, and the greatest of the bunch, and the source of tonight’s regular old table wine, Grillo. The Grillo grape, when vinified solo produces one BIG white wine. In my opinion, most Grillo wines, if tasted blind and warm, could fool even the most experienced drinkers into thinking that they were sampling a red wine – their full-bodied, highly structured, and deeply flavored natures are the keys to the trick…
I gotta actually try a really good Grillo at about 60 degrees F. with a nice sliced steak, but that didn’t happen tonight. What did was a first course of spaghetti dressed with pesto alla trapanese (Trapani (Sicily) Style – made with almonds, tomatoes, basil, oil, and garlic) and for the main course, thin swordfish steaks marinated with wine, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, patted dry, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and minced capers, first fried, and then finished with the marinade. Sweet braised carrots made a great foil.
Fatascia` Grillo Sicilia I.G.T. 2009
Brassy straw color. Imposing nose of wild herbs, lemon zest, tea, fennel seeds, dried white flowers, merengue, white raisins, and a pleasnt note of oxidation. The palate is chewy, rich, broad-shouldered, and very well structured, with an intense acidity, and an almost tannic texture that provides a stiff frame for unctuous flavors of apricot, honey, mandarin orange, toasted rye, and white aromatic spices. Lingering salty finish.