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swirl and savor

Wine of the Moment, Ajello Grillo-Catarratto

Beth Ribblett

One of our "go-to" white wines while staying at Mandranova was the light and refreshing Ajello Grillo Catarratto, a delicious blend of two of Sicily's native varietals! Ajello is a family-owned and operated winery located in the Mazara valley in Sicily’s southwest corner. Founded by Salvatore Ajello’s grandfather in 1860, the family has cultivated vines here for three generations. The winery’s philosophy, in the words of Salvatore Ajello, is simple: “We let nature do most of the work; we try to capture in a bottle the richness, vitality and structure of the magnificent grapes produced by our vineyards. Our role is to simply be the guardians of these qualities.”

Azienda Agricola Ajello's position on western coast of Sicily at an elevation of 200 meters, gives it some protection from the weather that can make winegrowing a more dicey proposition on the other coasts of the island. The estate contains some of those original vines on its south-eastern exposure along with some newer vines planted by the three generations of winegrowers and winemakers that have worked the land with the Ajello name. The hilly landscape in which the Ajellos grow their vines is bordered by two streams (named Bucari and Fudeo) which are responsible for irrigating the wide variety of plant life on the estate, in addition to the vines.

The Ajellos have always been winemakers in some capacity, though they have gone through periods where their emphasis has been mostly on growing grapes rather than making wine. Today, they sell about 90% of their grapes (a mix of local varieties like Grillo, Nero d'Avola, and Insolia, as well as international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah) to other wineries, but increasingly they are holding some of their best fruit back to make their own wines.

The Grillo-Catarrato is a 50/50 blend aged for 3 months in stainless steel. Grillo is the mainstay grape of marsala, Sicily’s almost extinct fortified wine. Catarratto brings grounding acidity to grillo’s exotic flavors. Bright yellow-gold color and aromatics of pineapple, evergreen and lavender are a welcome surprise. Quite full bodied, with great acidity and a nice dry finish. Excellent length. Try it with the Melanzana di Mandranova eggplant appetizer recipe this week!