Grillo is a green grape* from Italy, grown almost exclusively in Sicily.
Grillo is a grape that thrives in the hot and dry climate Sicily offers. It is medium to medium-low on aromas, which typically are apples, pears and citrus.
It will retain good levels of sugar, leading to high levels of alcohol. This, together with a tendency to oxidise easily, makes it destined to production of fortified wines.
It is however less generous with yields in comparison with for example Catarratto, which traditionally is preferred as the number one grape to produce sweet wine in Sicily.
Grillo is to a large extent used for the production of Sicily’s sweet wine, Marsala. With the modernisation of winemaking on the island, there’s been an increase in the production of dry varietal Grillo wine.
To produce a really good Grillo single grape requires a winemaker who works with pruning and grape selection, and is willing to harvest early in order to retain as much as possible of grape acidity. The difficulty is to know which of the winemakers that do this.
An alternative is to look for wine made from grapes grown on a bit of altitude.
A nice pairing is white meat, for example chicken, if possible with some lemon in the seasoning.
To allow the wine to express the little of fruit flavours it has, it is best served at 10-12°C/50-54°F. Lower temperature will risk bating the aromas too much.
Where is it grown?
According to the reported acreage, Grillo has started to reclaim earlier lost ground. From 1.803 ha/4,455 ac in 2000 to 6.295 ha/15,555 ac in 2010. This, positions it as the fifty-fourth most planted grape in Italy.
Almost all plantings are on Sicilly, particularly in the north-western Trapani region.
Grillo is recognized as a natural crossing between Catarratto Bianco Comune and Muscat of Alexandria. There’s a dispute whether it is native to Sicily or has originated in Apulia on the Italian mainland. Given Catarratto Bianco Comune’s long history in Sicily, it is quite likely that the correct version is the one that claims Sicilian origin.
*The name Grillo is also used as a synonym for another grape (the Spanish variety Palomino Fino), which has no known connection to the grape presented here.