2017 Le Sabbie dell'Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( £12.99, 14%, Waitrose )

The wines of Etna are some of Sicily’s – and Italy’s – most distinctive reds. Produced from two grapes – Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio – that are almost Pinot Noir like in colour and texture, this lightly wooded example is a fantastic introduction to a volcanic classic. Floral, ethereal and light with juicy redcurrant and raspberry fruit and some underlying stony grip. On offer at £10.99 from November 13 to December 3.

BuyDrinking window: 2019-24Similar Wines: £10-15, 90-94, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

Etna: wines from the volcano

by Simon Woolf
As far as wine regions go, Mount Etna could be described as a wine geek’s wet dream. Volcanic soil, obscure indigenous grape varieties, high altitudes and pre-phylloxera vineyards are just...

2010 Biondi Cisterna Fuori IGT Sicilia, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13.5%, Vino Passione )

Ciro Biondi’s new single vineyard Etna Rosso, bottled as an IGT due to a mix-up with this year’s paperwork, is still a baby – but already the attractive, lifted red fruit is approachable, and the tannins are muscular but refined. There’s a gorgeous lemon-candy/salty finish, along with slightly nervy acidity that should ensure a bright future. One to cellar for a couple of years, at least.

Drinking window: 2014-2024Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2009 Fattorie Romeo del Castello di Chiara Vigo Allegracore Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13%, Robin Woodhouse )

Chiara Vigo has markedly changed the style of her wines in the last two vintages. Whereas her 2008 was overtly oak-influenced, and rather hefty, the 2009 is much more feminine, and fruit-forward. Obviously youthful on the nose, the earthy red fruit is fresh and attractive, with great minerality. Salvo Foti has been the oenologist here, since Vigo’s first vintage in 2008, however from 2011, Vigo will be going it alone. Organically produced.

Drinking window: 2012-2016Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2007 Benanti Rovitello Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( €13.50 Ex-cellar, 14%, Les Caves de Pyrene )

Vinicola Benanti is one of the most established quality producers in the Mount Etna region. Their Rovitello vineyards are on the Northern slopes, and the slightly cooler ripening conditions are reflected in this elegant, mineral and smoky Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Capuccio blend.

Drinking window: 2012-2020Similar Wines: £20-£30, 86-90, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2009 Vivera Martinella Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13.5%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

A smoky, slightly vegetal aroma sets the stage for this terrific Etna Rosso. The red fruit is sweet and focused, and there’s a note of bitter cocoa, or cocoa nibs, that for me seems utterly typical of Nerello Mascalese. The tannins are refined and nicely balanced with the mineral finish. Organically produced.

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Calderara Sottana”, Etna, Sicily

( £22, 14%, Justerini & Brooks )

Marco de Grazia has two prized single vineyard sites in the Etna region – Calderara is situated near the Northerly town of Randazzo. A seriously structured wine, with rather dusty fruit, and spicy, bitter cocoa flavours. Unsurprisingly for Nerello Mascalese grown on black, volcanic soil, this has terrific minerality and lemon fresh acidity. Organically certified.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £20-£30, 86-90, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Santo Spirito”, Etna, Sicily

( £22, 14%, Justerini & Brooks )

The Santo Spirito vineyards are situated between 650-700m above sea level. This Nerello Mascalese is bursting with blueberry/black cherry fruit – so much so that the spicy, smoky oak influence takes a back seat. Santo Spirito is a big wine though, and still a baby at four years old. Some might say it’s an international style, yet there’s that typical Salty Etna tang on the finish. Organically certified.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2020Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2010 Giuliemi Quantico Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( £16, 13%, Outis )

Giuliemi’s Etna Rosso is scarcely less impressive than the Bianco. Raspberries, pepper and orange zest on the nose, driving acidity and soft yet structured tannins. Hint of brown sugar and lemon juice at the end. This is a super-fresh, pure expression of Nerellos Mascalese and Capuccio. Only 1,500 bottles a year produced. Organic/No sulphur.

BuyDrinking window: 2012-2020Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2007 I Vigneri Aetneus Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( £20, 14.5%, Contact the winery for details )

This wine isn’t currently available in the UK – a great shame. But it’s so good that I had to include it. Made by Salvo Foti’s cooperative “I Vigneri”, using very low-intervention (wild yeasts, no sulphur, no filtering, organically grown fruit), this is a superbly focussed, elegant expression of Nerello Mascalese. Dominated by fresh red cranberry fruit, smoky minerality and piercing acidity, the wine is underpinned by extremely refined tannins and feels effortlessly balanced – no mean feat given the high alcohol.

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese

2008 Tenuta di Fessina Musmeci Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( £36, 13.5%, FortyFive10º )

Tenuta di Fessina’s winemaker Federico Curtaz is from Piedmont, and there’s definitely a nod to Nebbiolo in this wine. 15 months in French barriques has created a serious, age-worthy Etna Rosso, with smoky dark fruit, but plenty of freshness and the typical saline/mineral finish that defines good Etna Rosso. Above all, this is elegant and balanced, in the manner of a top-quality Barolo or a Nuits-San-Georges.

Drinking window: 2013-2020Similar Wines: £30-£50, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese