The diversity of this white grape is expressed in its name, which refers to the “cataracts”, or “waterfalls”, of different wines it can produce. In the past few centuries, Cataratto wines were viewed as everyday drinking wines, placing emphasis on their quantity, rather than quality. They were also often used in blends of Marsala wines. It was not until the 1980’s that Cataratto gained more respect as a quality variety.
The separate biotypes of this grape are divided into three categories: Comune, Lucido and Extra Lucido, with Lucido referring to the bright color of the berry. The Comune biotype is characterized by a higher sugar and low acidity, while the other two express the opposite, with Extra Lucido containing the highest acidity and lowest sugar content of the three.
As the most common variety produced by this region, Cataratto Bianco Comune covers about 29% of the main island’s vineyards. In addition, it is also the second most common white grape grown in all of Italy, following Trebbiano Toscano. Considering both Cataratto Bianco Comune and Cataratto Bianco Lucido, the Cataratto Bianco varieties own about 35% of Sicily’s vineyards, thriving especially in the hills surrounding the cities of Trapani and Palermo.
Some of the top DOC wines which can be monovarietal Cataratto Bianco are Alcamo, Contea di Sclafani, Monreale and Santa Margherita di Belice. The common DOC blends which incorporate Cataratto are Contessa Entellina, Menfi, and Sambuca di Sicilia. Cataratto Bianco wines can be compared to Chardonnay, with a medium to full body, and notes of butter, herbs, banana, pineapple and citrus.