Category Archives: Etna

A lavishly pretty etna rosso packed with lava minerals that is a steal for the money

The typical blend with 80% nerello mascalese and the rest nerello cappuccio. Fruit is from young vines on the north-west slopes of Etna. Terrazze dell’Etna is founded by Nino Bevilacqua in 2008. Nino restored a farm whose oldest parts are from the 800 Century in Randazzo. The wine maker and enologist is Piero Carucci.

2013 Etna rosso Carusu, Terrazze dell’Etna

Glowingly crystalline and opaque cerise-red and blood orange core with pink-orange edges. Lovely colour.

Some oil paint, notes of wall paper adhesive, tea leaves, natural clove, red fruit and of course lava ash. Give this some hours and you are rewarded with a complex and graceful perfume slowly carrying beautiful red flowers. A lavish, captivating and quite intense nose of grace. Wow!!

Spice infused and clean red fruit coated in intense lava minerals. Mostly genuine, ripe and tasty strawberries, but also salmiak. Slender body, well balanced, focused and elegantly dressed wine with smooth and pliant texture of juvenile, but ripe tannins. Certainly my type of wine and a steal for the money! This is definitely a producer to drink more of and is immediately my house-wine. (Tasted 9/2-2017)

94p

 

Another really good red from etna

A month ago another interesting etna rosso appeared at the Swedish monoploy and yesterday we tasted it. It is built upon 80% nerello mascalese and the rest is mainly nerello cappuccio but also Alicante from the northern slopes of the volcano and more precisely in the contrada (vineyard area) Moganazzi at 750 m above sea level. Amazingly, some vines here are as old as 150! Soil is sandy with lava and highly mineral. The producer I Custodi let 20% whole bunches go into the crusher and raises the grape juice in used barriques. We keep being fascinated by the wines from mount Etna and they way they mix Burgundy with Barolo, but more importantly their very own intriguing terroir of complex minerals.

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2009 I Custodi, DOC Etna Rosso “Aetneus”

The core is dense and glowing of scarlet and cerise colour with light pink-cerise edge.

The nose first emerges with synthetic glue and some “Burgundish popcorn” of which the latter  is a notion of skilful use of wood with light toasting. After another two hours, these scents vanish totally and then it is full of prominent site-typical minerals and lavishly beautiful roses and violets as part of its lovely perfume. In addition, clove, wallpaper paste and spice cumin are noted too. It is pliant, soft and rich, but foremost it is a super crisp and generous wine full of very complex Etna minerals that appear to be wrapped in grape peels and oil paint in a way that partly reminds me of a young Bartolo Mascarello framed by ripe, fine tannins. In addition, spices, dry blood orange and really cool, clean red fruit; mainly notes of raspberry candy, wild strawberries and mull berries. It is very elegant, highly concentrated and quite persistent too. This underrated wine leans more to a very slender Barolo, but without the tar and cigars in terms of aromas and nose, but texture is a middle road. Even though it is approachable now, its tannins needs to settle even more so a guess is to wait with opening this until 2019.

92+p/100

Another super-interesting etna rosso from the vintage of 2013

The wine this time is built upon a blend of handpicked grapes from two different contradas, the name of their vineyard areas around the Etna mountain here in Sicliy; more specifically from rampante (the oldest) and solicchiata with a mean of 80 year average age of vines. The vintage of 2013 is great, well balanced and absolutely classic. They keep a natural vineyard, conduct an 18-day extraction on the skins and raises the wine for 14 months in lightly toasted french barriques. A modern producer at Etna with obvious good reputation.

2013 “Archineri” Etna rosso, PietradolceDSC_0154

Opaque and beautiful blood orange colour with orange and cerise tints.

This wine was a disappointment at first and still so even after five hours, but after giving it much more time, it finally woke up from its slumbers and quietly started to let off, just tiny scents of oil paint and ethereal qualities at first. Reluctantly, it seems. Then, earthy red fruit, spice cumin, some deep minerals, subtle notes of licorice root and morning dew on crushed gravel arrives in small waves.

On the palate, it is super slender, tight, delineated and focused. Red, earthy and sourish wild strawberries coated in complex minerals and herbs impress. Acidity is energetic wrapping distinct citrus peel and that special,  etna metallish minerality, but now a just little gnarly. Texture is very soft and already velvety but not powdery from new oak. Actually, and thankfully this is skilfully handcrafted in Burgundish manner regarding new oak, since it was not noted at all.

It is not approachable or generous at all now, but rather analytic and hard to get wine that really is holding back its fortunes, but impresses with its focus and precision. It will need plenty of time to come around and It is hard to score at this time, but obviously it has great potential and broods on something special. A guess is to wait until 2022, but probably later is a safer bet. It is super-slender but with yet too juvenile tannins, too volatile and introvert.

91-92p/100

A very honest and uncompromising etna rosso

The owner of this estate is the Australian vintner Anna Martens with a long career in wine making who among others have been working at Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and previously with Andrea Franchetti at Passopisciaro for three years and then started her own business in 2008 with her husband. They focus on very little intervention in the wine making and ecological farming. This wine is from 80-year-old vines (alberello trained) on the nothern side of Etna. Grape varieties are nerello mascarello (90 %) and 10 % nerello cappuccio. Whole clusters were put into closed fermentors for six weeks without any intervention until tannins have been miraculously extracted. Very surprisingly, they don’t seem to be pressing the grapes during this time and conduct no customary punch downs or pumping over after pressing either.  Grapes are gently pressed using super low sulphur levels (almost none) and raising the grape juice in small neutral vats. A very interesting producer in deed and one with focus on true terroir and whose ambition we really fancy.

2014 vino rosso, Vino di Anna

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A very simple label on their etna rosso with alberello bushes on a steep hill

Colour is luminous, but not opaque; rather blurry (obviously not filtered or fined) with bright red orange and slightly brownish core with cerise somewhat bluish outer part and pink edges.

A very subtle and reticent, but complex nose currently dominated by vibrating, smokey minerals, dusty gravel, under vegetation, some dried herbs and oil paint. After several hours, a deep and vey careful scent of dried rose petals and complex blue flowers slips through. A very small and holding back nose now, but very personal and obviously hiding something special.

On the palate it is very closed, introvert and currently not a charmer, but impressively dense and concentrated. Less straw berries in this etna rosso where fruit is more black with prominent blackberries, dark cherries and unexpected notes of black currant. In addition, smokey, dusty minerals, savoury aromas now and under vegetation. Less sweet and alcohol is pleasingly low at 13.5 %. Acidity is clean and vivid adding lots of energy. It is quite persistent too and focused. All framed in soft, very thick, chewy and marking tannins that are ripe, but of course young. This long-cycled vintage of 2014 is all classic and I am surprised they release them this early.

A very honest, but currently a very analytic wine that will need a lot of time to settle and come around. There is a resemblance to a very young and classic barolo from Mascarello in terms of aromas, but different style. A very interesting and uncompromising wine focused on terroir that will be interesting to follow and one that is hard to score fairly at this point, but there is obvious potential in this great vintage. A guess is to wait until 2020 or later.

93-94p/100

Tasting the wines of Benanti at Munskänkarna in Lund, Sweden

On the 11th of February this year I attended an interesting tasting of the wines of Cantina Benanti held by “Munskänkarna i Lund”, at the Grand Hotel in Lund, Sweden. It was a producer that I new about, but not in person and I had never visited them either.  However, back in 2011, I stayed two weeks on the east coast of Sicily up on the cliff in the town of Taormina with its fantastic view. After a day up at the Etna mountain just after an eruption, we found a very good restaurant, Le Naumachie, a little hidden from the tourist main street in Taormina. They served fantastic seafood and probably the best grilled fresh tuna I have ever had. Anyway, the owner insisted we try an etna bianco from Benanti, the Pietra Marina. It was perfect with that dish and I remember buying two bottles with me home thinking it was truly special.

And here we are in 2016 listening to one of the twins of the Benanti family; Salvino Benanti. Salvino explains that his father conducted several studies of the soil around the volcano back in 1988 and they were part of the renaissance of Etna that really made a showcase of the potential of the area. Their first vintage was 1990. They own 24 ha and production is about 145,000 bottles a year. Enzo Cali is the enologist since 2004. In 2013, the business was passed on to the next generation as the twins, Salvino and his brother Antonio, took over the business from their father.

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Salvino Benanti

Even though they use barriques, they consider themselves traditionalists focusing on the specific terroir of Etna. However, they are not as extreme as those terroir-fanatics who use terracotta vats or plastic containers to affect the wine’s origins to an absolute minimum like e.g. Frank Cornelissen. Anyway, four things are important in their wine making according to Salvino; they want to reflect authenticity, minimal intervention in the wine making, cautious use of wood and use their own selection of patented yeast.

Salvino continues with explaining the typicality of Etna’s terroir and its micro climates. Back in the late 80’s, they were a hand full producers, but today there are around 80 on Etna and growing. It is a very hot climate being so close to Africa, but the high altitude offers cold winds that renders fresh acidity during nights when temperatures decrease a lot compared to in the days. 300 days of sun a year is impressive and must be vintners wet dream. Silvano emphasises three things that makes Etna very special. Firstly, obviously the combination of many sun hours and cool nights. Salvino explains that the ventilation is good even though high levels of humidity exist due to the gradients and the proximity to the sea. Around the volcano, the gradients are steep, the sandy soil is very loose, there are no valleys, no irrigation and vineyards are situated in man-made terraces. Except for the somewhat difficult access of the terraces, it surely must be ideal conditions. Secondly, he says, is the volcanic soil that is very rich in deep minerals. Thirdly, the indigenous grape varieties that are only from Etna.

Three important grape varieties exist and all of them are grown as free standing bushes (alberello) that requires a lot of manual work in the vineyards, but in return limits mildew to a minimum and increases its exposure to cooling winds even further. The soil is loose and contains a high level of sand, so roots can easily dig deep down and find water and nutritions. The grape for the whites is Carricante (25% planted) is a green-yellow grape with low alcohol perception, thick skin and high acidity level that often needs to go through malo. It is very sensitive to heat and attacks, so it is planted at the very highest altitudes where it thrives. For the reds, there are two. Nerello cappuccio has soft tannins and is naturally approachable. Its related to sangiovese. The second red grape is nerello mascalese (3% but quickly increasing) is tannic, thick skinned and acidic. The latter is the interesting red one for sure and as is the case with nebbiolo, it is tannic and ripens late in mid October in classic years or later depending on altitude. It combines pinot noir and nebbiolo in a very good way. Now how interesting grape is that!

 

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All the wines; 3 whites and 7 reds

We are offered three whites and seven reds, so quite a lot of wines to taste really, but very interesting in deed.

2013 D.O.C. Bianco di Caselle, 100% carricante

This is a new d.o.c. wine since a year ago. This is a blend of grapes from the eastern side (Caselle) and southern (Cavaliere) of the volcano at 900-1000 meter altitude. Vines are normal age; 35-50 years. Harveted mid-late October. Handpressed.

Some beeswax, tiny notes of diesel and green apple on the nose. Very pleasant and tasty with an oily texture. Dry apricots. Generous medium bodied.

88p/100

2010 D.O.C. Etna Bianco, Pietra Marina superiore

It was a very difficult vintage, but balance is obvious. Grapes in this wine are 100% carricante from 80 year-old vines in Caselle, a single area on the eastern side of the volcano. Training is alberello at 850 meters above sea-level. It goes through malo because of the very high level of acidity. 21 days of maceration is really an eyebrow raising thing to do with whites.

Very subtle with a very deep nose of primarily white flowers. Dense, thick and pliant. Very elegant and with impressive balance. Very high quality acidity that stays in the background wrapping sea salt and balsamic oils. Aromatic with aromas of apricot, dried honey, sea grass and complex flavours. Persistent with a slender body.

94-95p/100

2008 D.O.C. Etna Bianco, Pietra Marina superiore

This is a perfect vintage vintage without issues on Etna.

Yellowish pale core colour with tiny green tints.

A little more mature than 2010 now, but the same notes of dried honey and green apple, but also a subtle inner perfume. More generous and even denser and more concentrated than the 2010 vintage, but less balanced. Dominated by apricot, but also some gooseberries, notes of dried honey, salt, green apple and maybe sea grass.

93+p/100

2012 I.G.T. Nerello Cappuccio

A hot vintage even on Etna that stressed the plants.

This is from a northern part of the volcano with only 10 to 30-year-old vines at 900 m altitude. Extraction is 21 days in steel.

Nice nose, but lacks complexity. Notes of barn, earth cellar. Very berry taste; red currant, sourish wild strawberries coated in earthy minerals. Soft and without edges. Yes, simple, but generous and with some finesse.

88-89p/100

2012 Nerello Mascalese

This is from the vineyard Guardiola on the northern-east side at 450-900 m altitude from 60 year-old vines. A difficult warm year with intense heat.

Ruby, opaque red core with pink tints. Incredibly subtle sensual perfume and complexity that captivate my attention.

Well balanced with marking and juvenile tannins at this point. Thin with a clear direction. Racy with tiny and dry red berries. Asian spices. Some anise. Persistent, young, slender and pretty. Pliant and without edges.

92p/100

2009 Nerello Mascalese

This is a blend with 10-20% nerello cappuccio from 15-60 years old vines raised with 30% of the grapes in new wood.

Ruby red half opaque colour.

A little bit more modern nose here with dried raisins, chess nut and flowers.

Textur is still a little lightly sandy and overall thicker compared to its younger counterpart. Clear red fruit fruit but also notes of black berry. Nice and generous.

90-91p/100

2013 D.O.C. Rosso di Verzella

Younger vines of max 40 years from the northern side of the volcano raised in barriques for about 8 months. A good vintage with low yields. Late ripening in mid October.

Colour is blood orange with orange edge and a ruby red core.

Scent starts off with white lilies, diesel and maybe chess nut.  Not the obvious red wine nose.

Medium-bodied and with good concentration as well as spine. Racy with red small berries coated by freshly cut ginger and aromatics. Generous but with the acidity in the very background, but still pleasant and dominated by fresh, ripe red fruit.

91p/100

2011 D.O.C. Rovitello Etna rosso

From the northern side at 750 m altitude and I think he said there was more sand and from what I’ve learned, that would give way for it to be affected with stress by hot temperatures. Vines are about 80 years old. This is a blend of 90% nerello mascalese and the rest nerello capuccio. 12-15 months in barrique. 13.5% in alcohol. A top vintage with very ripe fruit and balance. Late ripening in late October.

Somewhat darker ruby colour than previous wines.

Fine, subtle nose with stylish perfume. Chestnut and notes of wood.

On the palate it has an impressively clean, balsamic and fresh acidity. Fresh, pure and ripe red berries coated in orange-peel. Generous, rounder and fuller body. Super fresh, pretty and silky.

92-93p/100

2011 D.O.C. Serra della Contessa Etna rosso

Lower altitude about 500 m and from the eastern side and from 100-year-old vines. This is a blend of 80% nerello mascalese and the rest nerello capuccio. Long extraction on the skins. A top vintage with very ripe fruit and balance.

Dark ruby red colour.

Very fresh, slow and subtle perfume with peach.

Packed with fresh, pure and cool red fruit dominated by wild strawberries but notes of dark plum and red currant. All coated in fine minerals. Notes of newly cut ginger, Asian spices and anise seeds. Impressive balance and fine depth. It is persistent and elegant too.

93-94p/100

2004 D.O.C. Serra della Contessa Etna rosso

Dark ruby red colour with very dark core and brown-orange edges.

A more aristocratic, deeper but less seductive than its much younger counterpart. Pretty and mature Burgundian-like nose.

Cool, pure and impressively balanced wine. No edges and pliant. Super-silky texture and well integrated with high precision. Full of overripe and earthy strawberries coated in orange-peel.

94p/100

 

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Salvino Benanti and Frederik

A deep etna rosso from high altitude with a lot of terroir

The wines of Etna keep being a little of a mystery to us and when really good, they, in our opinion, combine the traits, pliancy and finess of the Burgundy’s pinots with some of the structure, backbone and aromas of an Piedmont’s barolo as well as in itself adding very much freshness in a very interesting way.

Especially, as is the case with the producer Passopisciaro, when they use 100% of the tannic and complex grape nerello mascalese from five different crus or contrados as they call them these are 70-100 years old. And this at a very low price from a very good, cold and long-cycled vintage where they started harvesting at 500 m altitude during the last week of October and finishing at 1,000 m the first week of November. 15 days of extraction is normal and the juice goes through malo in large, neutral barrels.

DSC046812013 “Passorosso” Etna rosso Terre Siciliane (IGT), Passopisciaro

Colour is, like a barolo, very transparent and opaque blood orange but with scarlet red tints.

Currently, the nose emerges as a dense combo of oil paint, subtle Asian spices, nutmeg and raw meat. Thankfully, the raw meat totally disappears after another hour in the decanter and then suddenly a perfume of grace slowly takes its place with some lovely, cut rose petals and small red berries; prominently rowan berries and red currant.

On the palate, this truly shows even more why some compare Etna’s reds with those of Burgundy. Yes, maybe a tiny resemblance to Aux Malconsorts is justified. Its texture is very much so; definitely soft, almost velvety, with some masculine Burgundian structure and some slender precision. A racy, dense and generous wine of pleasantly ripe red currant, red cherries and cranberries, all coated in newly cut ginger, nutmeg and fresh, volcanic minerals. Acidity is vivid and clean wrapping orange-peel and is impressively fresh. It is quite persistent, but more focused on the delightful details with impressive depth. Good balanced too. It is even better the 2nd and 3rd day in the decanter.

We really like the development of this wine, its elegance, depth and details, while sitting with it and sipping. It is a really interesting etna rosso and we will certainly try more wines from this producer. We guess you should open it in 2019 to just let it come together even more, especially the tannins. It is frankly, so priceworthy that we recommend to Just buy before they are sold out.

93p/100

Andreas

Expressive nose with slightly sweet strawberries, red current, blueberries and boysenberries, combined with herbal notes, perfume and some oil paint. Dense and generous but still with elegance.

Truly amazing acidity that manages to stay in the background but still do all the important work and adds a mouthwatering freshness to the wine. Slight chalk notes appear on the palate, but in the finish the berries dominated again. There is a slight sweetness in the wine but it never gets dominant.

It is hard not to like this elegant wine and the only thing lacking for a higher score is more complexity and layers.

92-93p/100