What’s in Your Glass? Tenuta Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Calderara Sottana” 2006

Maybe not where I would plant vines but we are glad that Marc did.

Like much of Southern Italy, Sicily is home to a vast number of indigenous varietals that are experiencing a rebirth in the hands of some very talented winemakers. A vast range of styles exists among these native grapes. The white Carricante, home in the volcanic soils of Mount Etna creates dry, fruity whites. The red Nero d’Avola, until recently the undisputed king of Sicily, creates deep, brooding reds that are high in tannins and alcohol.

Tenuta Terre Nere Etna Rosso “Calderara Sottana” 2006 showcases the complexity and elegance of the island’s new star: Nerello Mascalese. Many writers and winemakers were ready to write off the grape just a decade ago. Now it is prized for its soft Pinot Noir-like fruit, firm tannic structure and its food friendly acidity. Folks like Marc de Grazia are also out to prove that its best wines may be candidates for cellaring.

Tenuta Terre Nere was established in 2002 by Italian Importer Marc de Grazia. For more than three decades the de Grazia family has exported some of Italy’s greatest wines throughout the world. The winery specializes in Sicily’s native varietals, making a collection of reds, whites and one of my favorite roses. Marc’s passion for Southern Italy brought the American-born importer to Sicily when he finally decided to make his own wine and he believes Etna to be “the Burgundy of the Mediterranean.”

Tenuta Terre Nere’s single vineyard Etna Rosso is a blend of two indigenous Sicilian varietals grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, still an active volcano. To meet the restrictions of the Mount Etna DOC, the wine must be made from at least 80% of the aforementioned Nerello Mascalese, with up to 20% Nerello Cappuccio allowed. The extreme altitude of the Calderara vineyards removes the grapes from the oppressive  heat of the Sicilian plain and accounts for the wine’s freshness. Its elegant nose displays a deep core of red cherry fruit, rose petals, vine ripened tomatoes and the faint smokiness of a dying campfire. The palate is lively and fresh with a ripe tannic structure that leaves it anything but feeble. It’s deep red fruit fades into a rustic Italian earthiness that displays the deep minerality of Mount Etna. Like a great premier cru Burgundy this is great now but will develop complexities for at least another decade.

Will Sugerman (will@amantivino.com)

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