Grillo is a white grape variety which is referred to as Ariddu or Riddu in local Sicilian dialect. During the 1930’s, Grillo vineyards composed more than half of Sicily’s wine country due to its resistance to phylloxera, a pest that swept through wine country during the mid-nineteenth century, killing most vines. However, this grape lost popularity during the second half of the twentieth century because of its low-yielding production.
Grillo is almost exclusively grown in Sicily, but some vines can be found in Puglia and Australia. The two biotypes are Grillo Vecchio and Grillo Nuovo, the latter being the most common due to its better resistance to shot berries and millerandage, a condition in which the grapes develop into different sizes and maturity. These medium-sized grapes are heat and drought tolerant, however, caution must be taken in the process of deleafing, due to their susceptibility to sunburn.
DOC wines made with 100% Grillo include Contea di Sclafani, Alcamo, Delia Nivolelli, and Monreale. Grillo is also included in many IGT wines. As a result of the lack of terroir in these wines, people often argue the flavors and aromas are direct products of the winemaking process itself, and not of the nature of this grape. Grillo wines require quite extensive winemaking procedures. Winemakers must use reductive methods in order to prevent oxidization by preserving the thiols, alcohols in which an oxygen atom has been replaced by a sulfur atom, and must be balanced to perfection in order to prevent unwanted odors. When executed correctly, the aromas of Grillo wines are often compared to Sauvignon Blancs - lemony, herbal and crisp.