Nerello Mascalese: Pinot Noir Meets Brunello and Nebbiolo


Italy’s Mt Etna

Have no idea what Nerello Mascalese is? Or never had a wine from Mount Etna before? And think “Sicilian red wine” means “fat, flabby and jammy” and that “Marco De Grazia” means “oaky and internationally styled”? Let’s fix that, shall we?

We’ll start with the grape. Here’s how Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine and author of the world’s most comprehensive book on wine grapes describes Nerello Mascalese:

“Noble, late-ripening Sicilian variety that retains its acidity well and is responsible for some dense and haunting reds on the slopes of Mount Etna.”

Grown on the poor, fast-draining soils of active volcano Mount Etna and blended with softer Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese tastes like a cross between mature Barolo, warm-vintage red Burgundy, and classic leather and fruit-laced Brunello. Think ripe strawberries, sweet cherries, expensive leather, and dark flower aromas and flavors in a texture that has Pinot Noir’s silkiness, Sangiovese’s power, and great Nebbiolo’s stunning blend of acidity, tannin and perfume.

An Italian Icon on Mt Etna
Terre Nere WinesNobody does a better job of pulling out all of Nerello’s delicious charm than Marco De Grazia. Best-known for introducing Americans to the joys of great Italian wines as an importer, Marco and his brother purchased a swath of old vine vineyards on the steep slopes of Mount Etna 30 years ago and have lovingly nurtured them as they used classic Burgundian winemaking techniques to make simply stunning wines.

Since moving to Sicily and founding Terre Nere, Marco has established himself as Mt Etna’s “benchmark” producer. The winery’s approach is straightforward. First, they have acquired old vineyards up and down the volcano’s slopes, giving them sites with a variety of exposures, slopes and soil types. Then they farm each site organically and to low yields. And make their wine simply and naturally, bottling each vineyard – or “contrada” – individually to showcase Mt Etna’s varieties of terroir.

The results have been spectacular from the beginning. As Wine Advocate reports, “Marco de Grazia-s influence on the wines of Etna looms as large as the massive volcano that dominates the landscape in this very special corner of Sicily.” And Marco’s 2016s are some of the finest ever here. As Wine Spectator sums up, “Today, de Grazia’s vineyards produce better and better results, with two whites and all seven of his 2016 reds rating 90 points or higher.”

Click here to find out more about this fabulous set of wines. All are very limited and all very much worth your attention and space in your cellar.


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