Salvatore Scilio has one of the few organically certified estates on Mount Etna, and Alta Quota is his premium expression of Nerello Mascalese. The balance between acidity and structure is impressive, and the muscular, ripe fruit has a herby, rosemary scent running through it. Superbly elegant, and feels like one for the long haul.
Carricante made in quite a modern style, with a sauvignon-like nose of gooseberries and grapefruit, a hint of quince, and dry, salty tang. This wine spent 10 months on the lees, which has given it attractive weight, but not at the expensive of the freshness or the fruit. Organically produced.
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.
A great example of Etna Bianco, with 70% Carricante and 30% Catarratto. Bone dry, flinty and herby, with green melon and capsicum on the nose. Rampante is one of 60 or so “Contrada”, or vineyard sites particularly known for high quality production in Etna. The fruit is ripe, manifesting a baked apple character as it develops in the mouth.
Nerello Mascalese is versatile enough to make terrific sparklers – like this bready, toasty rosé spumante. The fruit is spicy, and rather savoury, with an intriguing nose that reminded me of red onions (it wasn’t oxidised, I should hasten to add). The mousse is soft but persistent. Bone dry, refined and complex – a serious Rosé, Bravo!
Made in tiny quantities (only 1,500 bottles a year) by Giuliemi, from organically grown fruit. This is a blend of Etna’s indigenous Carricante, plus a splash of Grillo, which seems to add richness, and bring a rather unctuous texture to the party. Intense lime and grapefruit aromas, spicy, honeyed character and great minerality. What makes this all the more amazing is that no sulphur was added. Stunning, if atypical. When is someone going to import this to the UK?
Alberto Graci has some very old plots of Nerello Mascalese growing between 600-1000m. This is his “basic” cuvee, made from younger fruit, although there’s nothing basic about the wine. The fruit is superbly fresh and vivid, with a slightly feral, herbaceous aroma. Etna Rosso often has a small percentage of Nerello Capuccio added, but this is unadorned Nerello Mascalese, and seems very focused for it, with black cherries, blueberries and redcurrants. Quite a “hot” finish, freshened up by the tannins.
I loved the concentrated and slightly dusty fruit in this Etna Rosso. This is a very approachable style, with fine tannins and an iodine tang at the end. Further proof that Nerello Mascalese can produce wines of considerable complexity without the need for any oak aging.
Passopischiaro make no less than four single vineyard Nerello Mascaleses, and the range of flavour and character just goes to show how sensitive this variety is to the varying terroir in different parts of the Etna region. Porcaria is a vineyard at 650m, with a thin layer of lava on the topsoil. This is a monolithic, smoky and tannic wine, which nonetheless remains fresh and herbaceous – there’s a pronounced note of sage.