Feudo di Santa Tresa Janko Grillo 2005
The Grillo di Sicilia grape has a history as one of the leading players in Marsala, the fortified
wine once considered a rival to Spain's Sherry. Marsala is a shadow of what it once was
during its heyday of popularity in Britain, and like many indigenous grapes, Grillo lost
considerable esteem in the face of competition from international grape varieties. It seems,
however, that whenever a local grape shows signs of neglect or commoditization, a dedicated
group of winemakers comes along to rescue the child from the orphanage. As we know from
such efforts all over Italy, the results, which combine reverence for tradition with modern
winemaking equipment and techniques, are often better than the best efforts of the past.
The $13 Feudo di Santa Tresa Janko Grillo is certainly an example of this. Yields are kept intentionally low to guarantee quality. The grapes are picked when optimally ripe in the cool of early morning. Malolactic fermentation is avoided in order to conserve this wine's valuable acidity. The winemaker ages half the wine in oak barriques for two to three months, then ages both oaked and unoaked batches on their lees several additional months before final blending. The result pours from the bottle a golden straw with interesting greenish tinges. This is aromatic wine, with its own proud character.
The wine has an extremely open nose presenting peach, some stone, apricot, mango, pineapple and floral honeysuckle notes. The fruit notes on the nose seem to reflect the entire fruit and not just the pulp: the oils from the skin, the blossoms, the full panoply of the fruit ripeness. These are warm summer notes I color yellow and orange.
On the palate the mélange is pleasant indeed. The stone minerality is the friendly sort and so is the acidity which, though lasting, is not puckering or prickly. The peach, apricot, honeysuckle and tropical mango and pineapple from the nose continue on the palate with new contributions from citrus in the form of lemon and grapefruit. The apricot is the tasteful leader of the bunch, bringing in reinforcements that add plump dried apricot to the fresh.
This wine is very well balanced with a fresh mouthfeel, good body, and stimulating flavors. Its best feature, however, is the quality of the finish. The apricot remains the surviving fruit, and this combines with floral and stone notes and refreshing citrus peel bitterness for a truly successful conclusion.
While many wines from lesser-known indigenous grapes present aromatic profiles that take
some getting used to, this Grillo, though unique in its own way, promises an experience most
white wine drinkers will be able to enjoy.
Truly aromatic grapes need a careful hand to yield a fine wine, but in the final analysis, a wine should be more than an acidulated liquid designed to wash down food.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman