Why is this Wine so Yummy?
Etna has to be the most significant hidden treasure of the wine world. Rediscovered some 20 years ago, it’s renaissance has no parallel!
Apparently lightening never strikes twice. In Etna, with Passopiscaro and Terre Nere it has done so in emphatic style.
After devouring the 2015 Cru’s I’m salavating at the thought of ripping the lid of the 2016’s. These, Nerello Mascalese, dominant wines with a splash of Nerello Cappuccio exude an entrancing perfume with a delicacy, elegance, and, sophistication that carries through to the palate. With vineyards from 400-1000m in elevation the lower lying vineyards tend to yield bolder styles, while the higher sites offer greater restraint. Texturally the tannins often remind of a more supple Barolo.
Wines of Nerello Mascelese and Nerello Cappuccio have been called the Barolo of the South by some, Italy’s Burgundy by others. I prefer to call them, simply, great wines from Etna.
Whilst Nerello Mascelese’s enormous bunches, with there big berries, result in wines of a pale appearance, there is nothing insignificant about their aromas, flavours, and, textures.
Terre Nere’s wines have a balance and purity that goes head to head with and in some cases exceeds Passopisciaro. Put it this way, I was sold on the nose alone of the single vineyards.
All of the elements of success were there from the beginning, exceptional sites from 600m-1000m above sea level on the slopes of Mount Etna, vines of 50-140 years of age, a very clever conductor, ‘Barolo Boy’, Marco de Grazia, the desire to achieve excellence, and, the cash to make it happen.
More recently I tried the Pre-phylloxera wine. To taste wine from 140 year old vines that has not been influenced by growing on a rootstock is becoming a rare thing at a global level. Trying Capellano’s Barolo’s from vine grown on their own roots and American rootstocks, the ‘Pie Franco’ (French foot or rootstock) and ‘Pie Rupestris’ (Rupestris / American rootstock) is perhaps one of the better known opportunities to do so. The difference between the two is striking.
Terre Nere’s Pre-Phylloxera wine has such elegance, delicacy, yet concentration, stunning perfume and spice. The sophistication, line and length of tannin is incredible. Layered and enticing, one to age be I little more patient than I could be with it! Start trying from 2020, will drink for much longer. Heart racing stuff.
Such vineyards are a labour of love, the incredibly low yields placing them on the knife’s edge of being economically viable. Note the broad beans planted in the vineyard to introduce nitrogen and organic matter through a cycle of composting, helping to build the soil structure.
While you might think vineyard in Sicily would be hot, their elevation combined with planting on cooler North facing slopes can make it challenging to ripen fruit on the highest sites in a cool year.
About Terre Nere
Although de Grazia was one of the architects of the modern style of Barolo, the Terre Nere wines show no signs of those modern, often over-oaked wines, lacking harmony. Poise and restraint being the norm. The larger format oak in the winery, both botte and puncheons are clear sign that sophistication is the intent.
Perfectly articulated by Marco de Grazia himself:
“Tenuta delle Terre Nere is the fruit of over 30 years of passion and work in the world of fine wine.
And an extraordinary location, as well – this “island within an island” that is the Etna – that my brother and I chose. And that, I sometimes believe, actually chose us. A place where nature is prodigal but also severe. And here I try with all my heart to express as purely as possible the refined and multifaceted microcosm of this ancient volcanic land. With respect, care and hard farm work, always in organic balance.
The estate’s philosophy is simple. Given an extreme climate, in order to obtain the best and most consistent ripening, our attention must focus on vineyard management. The finest workmanship in all aspects of viticulture is the first thing that sets us apart. And what enables us, bringing home exceptionally fine grapes, not to be invasive in our cellar work. A work best described as aimed above all at expressing the character of our varieties in their specific terroir.
A great team, a delicate hand and a heightened sensibility, as well. And our ideals, that drive us to give the best of ourselves in quest, not of perfection, but of the ideal bond between what nature gives us and that which our sensitivity, experience and imagination suggests.
All this sets us apart.”
An Exploration of the Vineyards
The 2016 Vintage in Etna
“Etna remains an epicenter for soulful and terroir-driven reds and the 2016s currently on release are excellent; the vintage shows grace as well as power. These are wines that will age incredibly well yet already offer excellent drinking when young. The 2015 is a little richer and fleshier, while the 2014s are balanced and very drinkable. Etna has proven it may be the best wine region in the otherwise challenging (rainy) 2014 vintage. Marco di Grazia continues to lead the fine-winemaking charge there with his various vineyard bottlings at Tenuta delle Terre Nere” James Suckling
Macro’s report for Terre Nerre can be read head: Terre Nere Harvest Report 2016. Overall it indicates a long cool season with no extreme high’s in temperature, wines of slightly higher acidity and lower alcohol than in 2015. Suckling’s call of grace and power seems apt.