2014 Arianna Occhipinti, Sicilia SP68 Bianco
I absolutely love this wine. I found myself initially thinking I was up in the Alto Adige with some lively Kerner in my glass. Outrageously floral. The white twin to the red Ruché aromatically. The wine tricks the palate – don’t be fooled by the ripe notes of peach and apricot, as the wine is dry. The wine could use a touch more acidity but on balance this is a beautiful warm weather white. I would not age the wine. DB.
2014 Arianna Occhipinti, Sicilia SP68 Nero d’Avola e Frappato
A little rustic at the beginning. Red fruits – cherry and wild strawberries. Then earth and some funk. But in a good way. This blend works well. Medium length in the mouth. The last sip reminded me of a very young Northern Rhone Syrah with the flash of violets on the palate. Finished long. DB.
A few weeks ago we were joined by another family for a late afternoon gathering. The kids played while we tasted through a selection of Sicilian wines. It was a casual evening so I only jotted down brief impressions. To cut to the chase, the 2014 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso must be the most forward and generous vintage yet. It is a fruity, affordable wine from Etna to drink right now for our bottle seemed tired by the end of the evening. Still, it made for an enjoyable drink while we waited for the other bottles to come around. Whereas the 2013 COS, Pithos, Vittoria Rosso remained distractingly tannic and the 2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Aglaea, Etna too simple, the 2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Talia, Etna surprised us all. After 3-4 hours it became aromatic with an elegant style of complexity that had us all proclaiming it as our favorite as we then rapidly drained the bottle. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2013 COS, Pithos, Vittoria Rosso – $34
Imported by Domaine Select Wines. This wine is a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato. It is fermented in terracotta amphora of 250 and 400 liter capacities. The fermentation is allowed to take its own course so there is no temperature control and it typically lasts for seven months. Alcohol 12%. The somewhat floral nose is followed by tart red fruit and a wall of very fine tannins. It remained distractingly tannic, even with extended air, leaving the impression the structure will outlast the fruit. *(*) 2020? – 2026?
2014 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $17
Imported by deGrazia Imports. This wine is a blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 5-50 year old vines on volcanic soils. It was fermented then aged for 11 months in large French oak barrels then aged a further month in stainless steel. Alcohol 14%. Generous flavors of ripe red fruit tastes young in nature. Perhaps the most forward vintage yet it drinks well from the very first glass with supporting acidity and tannins. ** Now.
2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Talia, Etna – $26
Imported by Simon N Cellars. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from 40-50 year old vines planted on volcanic ash soil located at 2250 feet in elevation. It was aged for 8 months in old oak barrels. Alcohol 13.5%. After several hours of air the nose became very aromatic with floral and herb aromas. In the mouth were fine, red and black fruit flavors with a vein of lively acidity. The complexity and depth for aging is there but requires hours to come out. *** 2018 – 2024.
2013 Tenuta da Aglaea, Aglaea, Etna – $18
Imported by Simon N Cellars. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from 10-30 year old vines planted on volcanic ash soil located at 2250 feet in elevation. Alcohol 13%. Brighter, more acidity, and simpler than the other bottling. *(*) Now – 2017.
In these temporarily leaner times there are many wines from Etna that exceed my price range. The pair featured in today’s post are priced at what I regard as the beginning range for this region. Though both are from the 2013 vintage and are mostly expressions of Nerello Mascalese, they showed completely different in flavor and evolution. On the first night the 2013 Planeta, Etna Rosso was my wine of choice. It was the more forward of the two with darker red fruit and a romantically volcanic, mineral finish. The 2013 Tenuta di Fessina, Erse, Etna Rosso, by contrast, was tight, higher-toned, and more acidic. You can imagine my surprise when first smelling the Erse on the second night to come across pure aromas of Juicy Fruit gum. That is perhaps not the best description but what matters is that the wine displayed its own unique profile. I recommend you try this wine but first give it hours upon hours of air or better yet, cellar it for the short term. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2013 Planeta, Etna Rosso – $24
Imported by Palm Bay. This wine is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced from vines at 600-800 meters in elevaiton. It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for six months in used oak barriques. Alcohol 13%. The nose had tight aromas of darker berries. In the mouth were firm red fruit flavors that did not expand until the acidity came out in the finish. With air the red fruit became darker with a subdued structure of fine and dry tannins. The finish brought firm cherry flavors and a black, mineral finish. **(*) 2016-2022.
2013 Tenuta di Fessina, Erse, Etna Rosso – $23
Imported by Winebow. This wine is 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello
Cappuccio sourced from vines at 670 meters of elevation that was fermented and aged in stainless steel. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a light, grapey cherry. On the second night the nose revealed attractive aromas of juicy fruit gum. There were similar fruit flavors in the mouth. The wine was not quite light bodied and existed from the very beginning around an integrated structure. The tannins with a touch ripe, texture, an drying in the aftertaste. The pretty, berrylicious flavors were matched by juicy acidity. The wine picked up some weight towards the finish which emphasized the good fruit. *** 2016-2020.
Our weekend was dedicated to the International Gold Cup steeplechase held in Virginia. Between hanging out at home with an old friend and drinking wine at the Gold Cup we went through a variety of wines. It was a gorgeous, warm and sunny day at the races so I spent my time chatting and tasting. Which meant I did not take any pictures. So I have no clue, for example, of what the tasty Barbera d’Alba was we had during the day. There was an elegant and crisp 2012 Failla, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast. Between the 2013 Justin, Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast and the 2012 Justin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, I preferred the later for being an unapologetically forward Californian wine. The 2011 Chateau Lilian Ladouys, Saint-Estephe was an herbaceous, Merlot dominant wine that, like the Justin, disappeared before I could taste it again. The most interesting bottles that I did save include the 2010 Castell d’Encus, Quest, Costers del Segre which is a Bordeaux blend sourced from high-altitude fruit in Spain. The particular cool factor is that the fruit is fermented in 12th century stone vats located in a mountainside. The resultant wine had herbaceous, brighter fruit with outstanding crunchy acidity. The 2007 Mas de Boislauzon, Chateauneuf du Pape and 2007 Mas de Boislauzon, Tintot Special Cuvee, Chateauneuf du Pape were a fun pair. The former is a Grenache dominated blend that showed secondary flavor complexity, good wood notes, herbs, all at a presently drinkable 13.5% alcohol. The Special Cuvee is purely Mourvedre. It possessed even less alcohol but packed more of a flavor punch of earthy fruit. I think this cuvee might be aged a bit more. The 2011 Crasto, Superior, Douro showed more polish from oak aging but came across as muted compared to the regular Douoro bottling that is both floral and flavorful. Finally, the 2008 Alice Bonaccorsi, Val Cerasa, Etna Rosso did not appear to have too many fans. This is primarily Nerello Mascalese with some Nerello Cappuccio in it. I rather liked its earthy take and reasonable price so I will follow up on this wine by drinking another bottle at a later date.
There is quite a range of both white and red wines from Etna available at MacArthur Beverages. There is something of a premium on price for these wines so I make sure to always try what falls below $25 per bottle. Today’s post features the 2012 I Custodi, Pistus, Etna Rosso produced by Il Custodi delle vigne dell’Etna. I recommend you take a look at the website for a good introduction to and images of the vineyards. You might recall the label for this is the younger brother of the 2007 I Custodi, Aetneus, Etna Rosso that I reviewed in my post Tasting Austrian and Italian Wines With Lou . There are two key differences between these wines. The first is that the Pistus is made using fruit from 10 year old vines whereas the Aetneus comes from vines up to 150 years of age. Second, the Pistus is raised entirely in concrete vat whereas the Aetneus is fermented in stainless steel then aged for some time in barriques. I think the Pistus is spot on. It is literally young so while it could stand from short-term aging, it does offer up interesting floral aromatics and the mineral, blacker fruit I like in a wine from Etna. I recommend you try it! This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 I Custodi, Pistus, Etna Rosso – $22
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio sourced from ten year old vines on sandy, volcanic soils. The fruit was whole-cluster crushed, fermented, and aged for nine months in concrete vats. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose was less herbaceous than it was evocative of orchids in a greenhouse. The wine took on weight to its ripe blue fruit that had minerally, black undertones. The sense of firmness was balanced by acidity. With air the notes of dried herbs took on vintage books in the dusty finish. Everything wrapped up with salivating acidity. **(*) 2015-2019.
The wines of Massimiliano Calabretta are lovely examples of traditional Etna wines. They easily combine lightness of flavor with minerality in a wine that has both strength and stamina for development. The prices are also traditional to bygone years! I thought it cool that at MacArthur Beverages the follow-on to the the 2002 Calabretta, Etna Rosso is the 2001 Calabretta, Etna Rosso. Having not tried these two vintages side-by-side I can only remark on my impression that the 2001 vintage appears to have more power for the long-haul. I would personally keep it in the cellar instead of drinking it. The 2011 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio is made from young vines but has good flavor. Like its serious elder, this vintage will develop as well. If you are at all curious about traditional, Italian wines then you must try this pair. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Calabretta, Gaio Gaio – $17
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is Nerello Mascalese which saw some time in Slovenian oak casks. Alcohol. There was brighter red fruit then black fruit which surrounded a tight core of ripe fruit. The good flavor was structured by ripe tannins. The mineral nature expanded with air. Needs some cellar time. **(*) 2015-2020.
2001 Calabretta, Etna Rosso – $28
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio sourced from 60-80 year old vines in Calderara. Alcohol. There was a good nose with perhaps a hint of tar. It started with minerals, light red fruit then a dry, tart middle. There was a core of ripeness with black fruit in the finish. The wine has both strength and depth. With air it took on notes of polished wood, an earthy finish, and an expansive, coating aftertaste that coated the gums. This clearly has the power to age for a long time. ***(*) Now-2025.
Frank (Drink What YOU Like) was in town again. I typically meet up with Frank at one of the innumerable wine events which take place in Washington, DC. We decided to shake things up and actually pay for our wine. Actually, I do not get invited to many events so I typically pay for my wine both at home and at restaurants. Range is a great place to go for wine, the list is diverse and prices per bottle start in the $20 range. Surprisingly, there are no half-bottles.
Frank wanted to have a lighter red wine with dinner, perhaps not Beaujolais and not Loire Cabernet Franc due to his upcoming Cabernet Franc tasting on Sunday. Going off of these restrictions we let sommelier Elli Benchimol pick a wine for us. She suggested Sicily which worked for us so she returned with a bottle of the 2010 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Caldera Sottana, Etna Rosso. This wine is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio source from a single vineyard at 600-700 meters of elevations. The vines here range from 50 to 100 years of age. Though the wine was light in a sense, it packed some deceptive structure and really needs several more years in the cellar. We even had Elli pick our main courses of Octopus and Pork. The wine did start to open up during the course of our dinner so I would recommend dumping it into a decanter.
As were deeply engaged in discussing the wine blog-o-sphere Frank was up for another drink. Again, there were no half-bottles so I figured we could order a full bottle then take the leftovers. I suggested the well priced 2008 Finca Sandoval, Salia, Manchuela at $26 but when I mentioned the 2010 Jean-Paul Thevent, Vieilles Vignes, Morgon Frank lit up. “That’s a Kermit Lynch wine,” he said. That worked for me. Unfortunately, the supply of the 2010 vintage was exhausted and the next case held only the 2011. We decided to try it and idiotically, keep trying it. It wasn’t the best. Frank did not much care for it and Elli even made a face or two. She decanted it and swirled it for quite some time. It eventually opened up, just a little bit to reveal some delicate berries and citrus. Too bad, this wine is made from fruit sourced from a parcel of vines 45 years old and a parcel which is 110 years old.
To allay our feelings Elli returned with a bottle of 2010 Aurelien Verdet, Le Prieure, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits and two fresh glasses. She gave us generous pours which she refreshed later on as we enjoyed the wine. This was much more interesting, a little earthy, good concentration, and weight. The fruit is apparently sourced from a 4 hectare vineyard planted in 1970. I do not think we concluded anything that night but I had a good time talking a lot over a rather long period.