Graci Etna Rosso
Nerello Mascalese * Etna, Sicily 2016
Nerello vines are the source of great study these days. There are vines vines that are hundreds of years old and rooted straight down through generations of volcanic activity. Currently the viticulturists are trying to map out the oldest vineyards according to lava flow over the years; think the complexity of a Burgundy map, and then add magma – thrilling stuff! We are seeing more single varietal wines from Nerello Mascalese as the flavor profiles and styles of wine in the region are being explored. But whether it’s this one amazing grape or a field blend of the three traditional grape varieties, there is no doubt that the world has turned their attention toward the incredible wines that are now being produced here.
Graci would be considered one of the young guns in the Etna wine scene, but his dedication to the classic methods and respect for tradition is important. He does not use new oak or try to create a wine expressive of anything but the grapes and the soil that they are grown in. Located on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna, in Passopisciaro, his vines reach up to 1000 meters above sea level. That’s amazingly high considering the sea is visible from here and is basically at the highest point at which these grapes can grow. Theses slopes can get cold very quickly come fall and harvest doesn’t tend to finish until late November.
Once again I close my eyes and try to remind my Italo-centric palate not think in Italian wine (old dog, new trick) and I am transported to place like Burgundy. Cigar box, black cherries, crushed rocks, nutmeg and clove… this wine has it all. The robust red fruit and persistent acidity hit with elegance and there is also a fresh, clean mushroom scent that I absolutely can’t get enough of (reminds me of our fabulous mushroom guy we visit often at our local farmers market.) The tannins are sweetly integrated and this wine is just balanced from start through the very long finish.
Alberto Graci has a practical view concerning growing vines on the slopes of a live volcano “Lava? We are fatalists.” he says ”We don’t care. It’s normal for us.”