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Vite ad Alberello, Carricante, Caciocavallo, and Fiori di Zucca al Forno #WinePW


Today the Wine Pairing Weekend group is taking you to school. As it's back-to-school, host Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles invited us to pick a theme about which we are an expert. Well, what she really said was "Pick a wine-related theme and teach us something about it! It can be on a specific wine, a region, pairings, flavors and tasting, viticulture, winemaking...You pick the subject and we are ready to be schooled!" Phew. Because I am not an expert in the topic I chose; I just wanted to learn more about it and I'm always up for an Italian food and wine pairing!

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to jump in on our live Twitter Chat on Saturday, September 10th at 8am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #WinePW and be sure to add it to anything you tweet so we can see it. Ready to learn something new? Here's the line-up of the articles...

Vite ad Alberello + Carricante

When I was doing some reading about wines I had on-hand, I came across a Sicilian single varietal whose grapes were cultivated vite ad alberello. 'Alberello' literally means 'little tree' but refers to a traditional agricultural practice of head-training the vines.

Used predominantly on Pantelleria, the technique consists of several phases. First the main stem of the vine is pruned to produce six branches in a radial arrangement. It is, then, planted in a hollow so the plant is growing mostly below ground level. The holes, called 'conche', are dug into the ground on terraces which provided added protection from the wind. Additionally, because the saplings are planted below ground level, it allows the plants to make the most of the water in the soil. 

image from

And it turns out that one of the wines I had - Pietradolce Etna Bianco 2019 - was cultivated in this exact manner.

Pietradolce is a fascinating estate that was founded in 2005 in Solicchiata, a village in the area of Castiglione di Sicilia on the North East slopes of Etna. Pietradolce elected to only plant vines native to Etna and utilizes the vite ad alberello method of growing grapes. The main grapes that they grow and use: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and Carricante.

Let's learn a bit about the variety Carricante. It's a high altitude white wine grape that's indigenous to Sicily that's often blended with Catarratto and Minella Bianca. Its may also be called Carricanti, Catanese Bianco, Catarratto alla Porta Bianca di Sicilia, Catarratto Amantidatu, Catarratto Mantellato, Catarratto Scalugnatu, Catarratto Scarugnatu, and Nocera Bianca.

A single varietal - 100% Carricante - the grapes for this wine were grown at over a half-mile above sea level on the slopes of Etna. The wine poured a muted straw yellow. On the nose, aromas were delicate with a mixture of summer stone fruit, citrus blossom, and a hint of toasted almonds. On the palate, the wine had a racy acidity with notes that matched its aromas with added layers of wet stone and the brininess of raw oysters. This was a complex, compelling white wine.


Initially I was just going to assemble a cheese board with a couple of Sicilian pecorino cheeses and a Caciocavallo. Caciocavallo is a hard cheese typical of southern Italy. Made from cow's milk, it's a raw stretched cheese salted in a brine. It's often elongated by suspending it by its neck. It's mild if eaten within the first two months; as it ages, it becomes more pungent. The Cheese Shop didn't tell me how old mine was, but it was salty and firm. I decided to grate mine into a filling for squash blossoms. 

Fiori di Zucca al Forno

One of the pleasures of summer in Italy is being able to eat fried stuffed zucchini flowers—the cheese and anchovies are warm and soft inside the crisp fiori. Whenever I see the blossoms in the market, I grab them and I make a baked version. It is just as delicious, but feels a little bit more healthy.

  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used organic panko breadcrumbs)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, chopped
  • 1/3 cup shaved Caciocavallo
  • 1/4 cup shaved Pecorino with peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup shave Pecorino
  • 2 Tablespoons anchovy paste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 10 large organic squash blossoms, destemmed
  • shredded parmesan cheese
  • fresh marinara sauce or semi-dried cherry tomatoes for serving
  • Also needed a wire rack nestled on a baking sheet


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together ricotta, mozzarella, Caciocavllo, pecorino, and anchovy paste. Season with freshly ground pepper. Place 2 eggs in a bowl and whisk. Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Gently open the petals of each flower and carefully pinch out the filaments inside. Spoon some of the cheese mixture into each flower and press the petals closed.

Twist loosely at the end to close. Set aside until you have finished all of the blossoms.

Dip each stuffed squash blossom in egg.

Then roll in breadcrumbs.

Lay them on a wire rack nestled over a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Spoon marinara sauce or semi-dried cherry tomatoes over the top for serving. Serve hot.

That's a wrap on my #WinePW back-to-school offering. The group will be back next month with our annual #MerlotME parade. Jeff of FoodWineClick! hosts again. Stay tuned.


  1. The wine sounds lovely! I've been reading so much about southern Italy over the last year but have yet to try a Carricante. I hope when I get one it's as nice as you describe.

    1. I have had a couple and I love them. Your Moroccan feast looks SO lovely.

  2. I was enchanted from the start, just the names in the title!
    I love that this is a white wine and from the Etna region. Something about that volcanic environment and the high altitude...I just want to taste this wine!
    The planting method is also so unique. This was just a a fascinating story all around.
    Then you paired it, with interesting cheeses and those squash blossoms! Wow.

    1. Thanks for hosting! And for inspiring me to do some digging into a new-to-me concept. Looking forward to the chat.

    2. I've never heard of vite ad alberello in terms of head training. So yeah ! Learned something new. PLUS never knew to eat the blossoms! Double learning

  3. That white wine sounds delicious! And the zucchini blossoms look like another creative pairing.


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