Wines from Mount Etna, Sicily
A tasting of some of the leading wines of this emerging Sicilian region

The vineyards on Sicily’s active volcano, Mount Etna, are experiencing something of a revival. There’s not a lot of them (so far 300 hectares and rising), but the quality of the wines from these rather special terroirs has begun to attract a lot of interest. While I was visiting Sicilian producer Planeta, who have just started their own Etna venture, they put on a small tasting of some rather varied Etna wines.

Etna is small producer territory, mainly, and quality can be a little random, as this small subset of wines showed. But there were enough stars even in this line-up to show that the region has potential.

I’m also including my note on the first release from Planeta’s Sicilian venture, a varietal Carricante, from the Nuova vineyard (altitude 890m) on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, and another note from a separate tasting on one of Sicily's best reds, also from Etna.

Planeta Carricante 2009 IGT Sicilia
From Planeta’s new Sciara Nuova vineyard on Mount Etna; first release; 13% alcohol. Fresh, nutty and citrussy with high acidity. Very mineral with subtle herb and wax notes as well as taut, pithy, citrus fruit. The predominant flavour is that of the somewhat indefinable descriptor ‘mineral’. A lovely taut, lean white wine. 91/100

Gambino Cantari Nerello Mascalese Bianco IGT 2007
Quite richly fruited, rounded and fresh with a hint of mineral. Fruity and simple. 85/100 02/09

Tenuta delle Terre Nerre Etna Bianco 2007
100% Carricante. Rounded, fresh, pure and quite mineral. Nice texture, but lacks flavours? Shy, with a slightly mineral nose. I like the style, but need a bit more flavour. 89/100 02/09

Biondi Outis (Nessuno) Etna Bianco 2006
Carricante. Deep colour. Lovely herby, waxy, aromatic nose. The palate is bold and distinctive with powerful herbal characters and some nice weight. Really distinctive with lots of interest. 92/100 02/09

Benanti Bianco di Caselle Etna Bianco 2007
Fresh, minerally nose. Powerful herby palate with pure fresh citrus fruit and distinctive minerality. Fresh and mineral with a hint of smokiness. 92/100 02/09

Barone de Villagrande Fiore di Villagrande Etna Bianco 2002
Deep yellow colour. Interesting mineral, matchstick, cabbage reduction on the nose. The palate is bold, herby and melony with some richness. Wacky but interesting. 90/100 02/09

Benanti Petremarina Etna Bianco 2005
Complex minerally, herby, waxy nose. Fresh and intense. The palate has lovely minerality and is fresh and complex with beautiful purity. 93/100 02/09

Calabretta Etna Rosado 1999
Funky and earthy with an appley, volatile edge. 72/100 02/09

Passopiscaro 2006 Sicily
Made by Andrea Franchetti of Tenuto di Trinorio fame, this is a wonderfully complex wine from Mount Etna, a region of Sicily that’s currently attracting a lot of attention. Franchetti has 8 hectares of old vines, at high altitude (from 650–1000 m), and this is a varietal Nerello Mascalese, harvested in November. Viticulture is organic, with no herbicides or fertilizers; 2300 case made. It’s a pale cherry colour with a wonderfully complex nose of red berry and cherry fruit together with savoury, spicy, herby, slightly meaty notes in the mix. The palate is rich, generous, spicy and herby with lovely warmth and some complex meaty, earthy notes. Imagine a cross between a refined, old-style Barolo, top red Burgundy and Château Musar, and you are sort of getting there. Amazing complexity, a hint of funk, but just lovely. 93/100 (£26.79 Corney & Barrow)

Baron de Villagrande Etna Rosso 2006
Fresh dark cherry nose with some spice and herbal notes. The palate is sappy and fresh but with a hint of funk to it. Savoury, slightly roasted edge. 83/100 02/09

Biondi Outis Etna Rosso 2006
There’s a green, earthy taint to the fruit. Geosmin? Flawed. 76/100 02/09

Benanti Rovitello Etna Rosso 1998
Earthy, spicy, evolved nose. The palate is quite elegant with evolved, bright fresh cherry and berry fruit. Finishes earthy. A nice older style. 88/100 02/09

Girolami Russo a’ Rina Etna Rosso 2005
Sweet, warm spicy nose is faded and slightly meaty, with a bit of earthiness. The palate is earthy and evolved, lacking freshness. A bit tired. 81/100 02/09

See also:

Visiting Planeta, Sicily
The wines of Frank Cornelissen, Etna

Published 12/10  
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