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
90

2010 Cantine Russo Rampante Etna Bianco, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 12.5%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

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.

Drinking window: 2012-2016Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Italy, White, Carricante, Catarratto
92

2011 Biondi Chianta IGT Sicily, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13.5%, Passione Vino )

A single vineyard Carricante, with minute amounts of Catarratto, Minnella and Muscatello in the blend. There’s an enticing hint of vanilla pods on the nose, a very subtle reminder that this wine spent 9 months in French oak. There’s nothing heavy handed about it though – the fruit is predominantly grilled peaches, with a splash of woodspice and terrific freshness.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-2016Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, White, Carricante
93

2010 Cantine Russo Mon Pit Methodo Classico Spumante Brut Rosé, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 12.5%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

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!

Drinking window: 2012-2018Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, Sparkling, 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