90

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
94

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
95

2011 Giuliemi Quantico Etna Bianco, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

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?

Drinking window: 2012-2016Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, White, Carricante, Grillo
92

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
91

2009 Cottanera Fatagione IGT Sicilia, Etna, Sicily

( £16, 13.5%, AG Wines, Astrum )

Nerello Mascalese can suffer from a lack of “stuffing”, particularly as it ages. Cottanera have created a blend with 15% of international varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot), which definitely adds fruit and richness to this easy-going cuvee. The fruit is leathery, backed up by taut tannins, and there’s an enticing spicy, vegetal note to the nose. Barrique aging has been well judged to round out the palate, without dominating it.

Drinking window: 2012-2017Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, Red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Nerello Mascalese
90

2008 Cottanera Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13.5%, Astrum )

Etna Rosso DOC wines are never particularly cheap – the DOC regulations require hand harvesting, no irrigation, high altitude vineyards. That this Cottanera retails for only around a tenner is therefore miraculous. It is seriously structured, smoky, with a tiny hint of mocha and a bit of liquorice on the finish. A great introduction to Etna Rosso.

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £5-£10, 86-90, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese
91

2010 Graci Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

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

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.

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Mascalese
93

2010 Tenuta di Fessina Erse IGT Sicilia, Etna, Sicily

( £18, 13.5%, FortyFive10º )

It’s rare to see a completely unoaked Nerello Mascalese (Although most producers are using large, old oak vessels these days). This shows just how charming Mascalese’s fruit can be. Red cherries and redcurrants are balanced with a floral and slightly herbaceous note, in a style that’s not a million miles away from younthful village Burgundies. Erse is the goddess of dew, which seems appropriate for this fresh, youthful yet intense wine.

Drinking window: 2012-2017Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, Red, Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese
95

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
92

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
93

2008 Sciarakè Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily

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

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.

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