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#WinePW Writers Highlight New-to-Them Grapes + Pasta al Polpo with Carricante

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

This month the Wine Pairing Weekend writers are diving into pairings with grapes varieties that are new to them. I am hosting and can't wait to see how adventurous we all get.

To kick off the 2023 #WinePW series, I am inviting the Wine Pairing Weekend crew to explore a grape that's new to them. I love learning new things and I, especially, love tracking down oddball wines. It doesn't even have to be an oddball wine. It's just a wine that the writer has never poured and paired before. I would love to have gotten my hands on a Juhfark, from Hungary; Obaideh, from Lebanon; or a Chasselas, from Switzerland.

But, in conjunction with last month's #ItalianFWT Sicily event, I poured several varieties of indigenous Sicilian grapes that I had never had before. For last week's event, I posted Capodanno: Ending 2022 with an Indigenous Sicilian Grape + Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare.

Here's What's Coming...

Carricante, A Little-Cultivated Sicilian Grape

As I mentioned, I poured this when I was exploring food and wine pairings for the January #ItalianFWT Sicily event. Carricante is a white wine grape that's indigenous to Sicily. This is typically used in the Etna DOC as a blend with Cararratto and Minella Bianca. Its name comes from the Italian word for 'to load or to burden' (caricare) as the vines become heavily loaded with fruit. In addition to being late-ripening, it's also a high altitude variety that thrives on the slopes of Mt. Etna.

Carricante is also known under the names Carricanti, Catanese Bianco, Catarratto alla porta bianca di Sicilia, Catarratto amantidatu, Catarratto Mantellato, Catarratto Scalugnatu, Catarratto Scarugnatu, and Nocera Bianca.

I was able to get my hands on a bottle of the 2020 Cortese Organic Nostru Carricante Terre Siciliane IGP Azienda Agricola Cortese, named for the original owner Giovanna Cortese, is a sustainable winery that was sold siblings Stefano and Marina Girelli in 2016.

The Girellis hail from a winemaking family in Trentino and wholeheartedly endorse organic and sustainable viticulture and champion the indigenous grapes of Sicily. This brother-sister team is based in Vittoria and also own the Santa Tresa estate.

Last week, for the #ItalianFWT event, Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles posted Cortese – Organic Wines from Sicily Championing Biodiversity and Lynn of Savor the Harvest shared Frappato and Biodiversity at Santa Tresa Winery.

The Cortese Carricante come from grapes that are cultivated at nearly half a kilometer above sea level and the Girellis use the Guillot method of training and pruning their vines. When ripe the grapes are hand-picked and de-stemmed before being gently pressed. The must decants at a low temperature for two days before undergoing fermentation for nearly three weeks. Then the wine is racked and stored on fine lees for at least five months.

The wine poured a pale straw hue with flecks of green on the rim. On the nose, there are aromas of clashing seasons - summer peach and winter citrus fruits and blossoms. On the palate, the wine has a bright acidity as well as a bracing minerality that lend the wine a lengthy finish. Very food-friendly and a great match for my seafood pasta.

Pasta al Polpo

This was a dish that we served on Christmas Eve as part of our La Vigilia di Natale. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a traditional Italian celebration that takes place on Christmas Eve. In Italy, it is also known as La Vigilia or the vigil that was held until baby Jesus was born. The feast is celebrated in Italy and by Italians all around the world. I did some research as to why seven courses. Apparently, it stands for the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church: Baptism, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and the Sacrament of the Sick. It could also refer to the seven days of creation. Additionally, in Biblical numerology, seven is the number of perfection. There were seven kinds of seafood included in this single dish: crab, mackerel, swordfish, salmon, ahi, octopus, and bottarga. This pasta is pretty darn close to perfection on that palate.


  • pasta of your choosing (I used a mixture of plain and spinach tagliatelle)

  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and diced

  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced

  • 1 cup white wine

  • 1 cup straciatella di bufala (or cubed burrata if you can't get straciatella)

  • 1 cup cooked and cleaned crab meat

  • 1 cup smoked fish, diced (I used smoked mackerel)

  • 1 cup poached fish (I used a mixture of swordfish, salmon, and ahi tuna)

  • 1 cup chunks or slices of octopus with a few tentacles reserved for garnish

  • 1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped

  • juice from 1 organic lemon

  • olive oil

  • Also needed: bottarga for sprinkling over the top for serving


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

  2. As the pasta cooks, add a splash of oil to a large skillet. Stir in the garlic and shallots. Cook until the shallots are softened and beginning to caramelize.

  3. Add the wine to the pan and leave to reduce by half. Then add in the crabmeat, smoked fish, poached fish, and diced octopus. Since all are already cooked, just heat through.

  4. Drain the pasta, then add to the pan and toss to coat in the sauce.

  5. Fold in the parsley, straciatella, and lemon juice. Toss to coat.

  6. Portion the pasta into individual serving bowls. Grate bottarga for serving. Garnish with octopus tentacles. Serve immediately.

Well, that's a wrap on the #WinePW preview for new-to-us grapes. All the articles will be live between Friday and Saturday before our Google Meet discussion.

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