Sicily Taste Tour
This blend of Albanello and Zibibo, two local grapes, is left to ferment in contact with its skins, giving it a glow that is warm like the Sicilian sun at magic hour, and a texture that’s gentle but present like the salty sea on your skin after a swim. Their are hints at savory, wild things, like thyme and salt. This white became our house wine of the trip. Wherever we could, we ordered the bottle and basked in its citrus florals, blossom-y things, and honeyed walnut aromas. I got to peak in at the new vintage fermenting with its skins at the winery, a mash that looked like oatmeal and smelled like the outdoors. Arianna is a personal hero of mine - she’s my age and far more accomplished, making wine the only way she believes in - without any intervention from chemicals, manipulation, or even water. All of her vineyards are dry-farmed. This white is impossibly delicious, elegant, and effortless. Drink cold-ish - as it comes up in temperature it reveals more secrets!
Oh if only you could meet Salvatore! Every time I think of him the corners of my mouth turn up, because he just wouldn’t stop smiling during our visit. He towered over me at 6’5” and maneuvered in between giant fiberglass fermentation vessels to pull samples of Nerello Mascalese at various stages directly from said vessels and splashed them into our glasses. He spoke zero English so I flexed my atrophied Italian muscle, learning that Calabretta is dedicated to Etna’s old school methods, farming a small plot of 80 year old ungrafted vines of indigenous grapes. The winery, too, is trapped in time, doing harvest and work by hand, in no hurry to get wines to market. In fact, the current release is aged TEN YEARS! The depth and precision of this wine is astonishing; tarry, mineral-laden, filled with dried flowers and cherry, and evocative of Etna in every way, but also, it reminded me of the power and elegance of Burgundy. It’s distinguished and precise, but there is something wild in its core. It does, I suppose, grow on the surface of a very massive and powerful volcano. This wine is a gem, and so ready to drink and marvel at.
Collector alert! Not to get too nerdy, but this a grand cru wine from a master that makes me wonder whether a Barolo and a Grand Cru Burgundy went on a secret Sicilian rendezvous and had a love child they told no one about! Andrea Franchetti focuses on single-site (contrada) expressions of the Etna varietals. No other winemaker on Etna is making such a range of site-specific, high-level wines. Here, the Porcaria Contrada’s concentrated, 80-120 year old vines are parlayed into a dense, dark expression of Nerello Mascalese. It’s considered the richest of his wines, but man, this is a tightly packaged, streamlined ride. The deep cherry fruit is lush and sweeping, but foresty, mountainous flavors keep it in check with clean lines and perfectly delineated structure that unfolds without unraveling. This is one for the cellar (although it’s beautiful now) - it will only evolve with time. These wines are in severe limited supply because the yields are very low - less than two hundred cases were produced and even less imported into the states. Just sayin.