2018 Gulfi "Carjcanti" Terre Siciliane wine
2018 Gulfi "Carjcanti" Terre Siciliane wine

At Gulfi, a Carricante with Influence from the Sahara

575 Words (Or So) on a Narrative-Defying White Wine

4 min read

I love wine’s outliers. They toss convention on its head, replace certainty with doubt, and in the process, make wine education all-the-more appealing because you’ll never fully know the subject matter.

In Sicily, the greatest white grape is undeniably Carricante. Yet just by saying that, I’m asking for an outlier to undermine my statement. Growing high on Mount Etna, it conveys complexity, shape-shifting personality and versatility to context all while maintaining a fabulous mineral character. Yet venture away from Mount Etna, and Carricante loses its steam. Or at least, so the conventional wisdom says.

I love wine’s outliers. They toss convention on its head, replace certainty with doubt, and in the process, make wine education all-the-more appealing because you’ll never fully know the subject matter.

So today’s outlier is Gulfi’s “Carjcanti” — a full-bodied, complex and sensory-expanding wine that is not from the high, volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, but rather from the lower, limestone slopes of Southern Sicily’s Monti Iblei range in the Ragusa area. Better known for Nero d’Avola, Frappato and the blend of the two — Cerasuolo di Vittoria — the area has long planted its flag in the Italian wine business for its uniqueness (see also COS, Arianna Occhipinti and Gurrieri, but also Gulfi’s Nero d’Avola wines, which I think are the region’s best). I have adored this region’s wines for some time, but the spectrum has largely been red until now.

Indeed, this wine is recognizable as Carricante, but it adds something new to the grape’s vocabulary: richness. The aromas never shy, opening with salvos that made me think of ripe peaches, lemon drop candy and most clearly, sage. In fact, it was this herbaceous note that still lingers in my memory.

Yet where the wine stayed most true to its Carricante identity was that feeling of minerality and the taut and scintillating acidity — which built momentum across the palate and led me to deeper exploration.

To achieve the mysterious quality of “minerality,” vines need a soil where any and all precipitation runs away from the roots. It never seems to happen in clay. On Mount Etna, Carricante thrives because the volcano’s new and old lava flows provide exactly that. Cooler temperatures, higher elevation and a good supply of moisture all contribute to Etna Bianco’s finely etched lines, which reveal — rather than smother — the feeling of minerality.

Down south, in the Monti Iblei, it is limestone that enables this sensation. However, the famous heat of the area complicates the equation significantly. This part of Sicily literally points at the northern terminus of the Sahara Desert in Africa, where the arid Sirocco winds come from. Heat leads to richness, but richness needs a counter-measure.

To mitigate as much of that as possible, Gulfi has found a site at 420 meters in altitude (1,377 feet). That is still lower than the Etna DOC’s base-level elevation of 450 meters, (1,476 feet), but it seems to be enough to provide good development of acidity. Incredibly, the wine only clocks in at 12.5% ABV.

I will also note that this particular bottle was able to reveal more of its complexity due to two extra years of aging, as the 2020 (not the 2018) is the current release. But that’s one of my favorite things about Carricante and many of Italy’s great white wines (see also Friulano, Fiano, Ribolla Gialla, Verdicchio, Garganega, Timorasso):  you don’t need to worry about an expired vintage. In fact, it makes “cellaring wine” a more dynamic and hands-on experience. In only 3 to 4 years, you have a vastly different wine.

May as well add this outlier to the rotation.

2018 Gulfi “Carjcanti” Terre Siciliane

Gulfi's 2018 "Carjcanti" wine from the Carricante grapeTerre Siciliane IGT (Sicily )
Grapes: Carricante (100%)
Alcohol: 12.5%
Opinion: ★★★★★ (top tier)
Food friendliness: Versatile
Value: As expected


A beginner might like … seeing this as a Chardonnay alternative. Its full-bodied, intense, flavorful, and can handle similar pairings, and while part of its maturation takes place in oak barrels, you won’t notice any of those flavors (just in case “Chardonnay” makes you think of oak). However, what this wine has that Chardonnay doesn’t is a compelling dance with bitter and sour flavors. It is a hallmark of all Italian wines — red, white and in between — to play with all the geographic zones of the palate. I can think of few white wines that do it better than Gulfi’s “Carjcanti.”

A wine obsessive might like … tasting this wine alongside its counterparts on Mount Etna. I am currently working on a First-Taste Guide to Etna Bianco, and for me, one of the telltale hallmarks of those wines (which are either 100% Carricante or a majority Carricante) is their hide-and-seek nature. Sensations come and go; the wine never stops evolving. It is part of the region’s beauty. However, “Carjcanti” is not like that. It is upfront and fabulous from the start, with the commonality of mineral momentum keeping it anchored in Carricante territory. This is really the only great non-Etna Carricante I’ve encountered.


Note: This wine was paid for with funds raised for our editorial budget thanks to subscribers like you.

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