Carricante is an ancient white-wine grape variety from eastern Sicily, thought to have been growing on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna for at least a thousand years. The variety is known for its marked acidity, and the high yields which gave rise to its name (carica means 'load' in Italian). The best examples come from vines grown in volcanic soils, at high altitude (Etna's vineyards stretch up as high as 3940ft / 1200m).
Well-adapted to their environment, Carricante vines respond well to the high diurnal temperature variations which characterize the climate around Mt. Etna. The grapes ripen slowly and steadily throughout the long growing season, retaining their trademark high acidity well into September. If harvested too early, this acidity is all too apparent in the wine, and is sometimes countered by lees contact and malolactic fermentation and/or partial barrel ageing. In cooler seasons, Carricante grapes can still be seen on the vines into early October.
On the whole, Carricante wine offer a broad range refreshing citrus aromas – anything from lemon and lime to grapefruit to orange – alongside cooling herbal notes such as mint and aniseed. An underlying mineral, slatey character is also to be found in the finest examples. When aged in stainless steel and without lees contact, notes of tart green apple shine through – a searing reminder of the variety's naturally high acidity. Weightier Carricante wines (particularly later-harvested examples) are complemented by honeyed hints and the creamy texture which results from lees contact.
Carricante is the key grape behind white wines made under the Etna DOC title. It is required in all of the denomination's white wines: 60% minimum in the standard Etna bianco and 80% in Etna Bianco Superiore. The most common blending partner here is Catarratto, a variety for which (somewhat confusingly) Carricante is often confused.
Synonyms include: Catanese Bianco, Catarratto.
Popular blends include: Carricante - Catarratto.
Food matches include:
Europe: Pesce spada (grilled swordfish)
Australasia/Oceania: Snapper sashimi