Nerello Mascalese

Typically wines made from the Nerellos exude an entrancing perfume with a delicacy, elegance, and, sophistication that carries through to the palate.

Where is it grown?
With vineyards from 400-1100m in elevation.

Wines of Nerello Mascalese 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.

Indigenous to the Etna region, Nerrello meaning Black and Mascalese derived from Mascali, a commune to the east of Etna. Research indicates it is possibly a cross between Sangiovese and Mantonico Bianco. That parentage would make it a sibling of Gaglioppo from Calabria. The full parentage in any number of different varieties have yet to be determined.  Commercial Nerello Mascalese plantings often include several unidentified varieties. Some genetic work suggests Nerello Mascalese could be related to the white grape Carricante.

Nerello Mascalese is typically the dominant of the two varieties when blended with Nerello Cappuccio. I’ve only once had the opportunity to try a 100% Nerello Cappuccio from Calabretta. The tannins by comparison to their Nerello Mascalese dominant wines are a little more supple and fine. The core of fruit is again epic, an edge more immediately generous. There is a sense of purity about this wine. It had an edge more generous and round fruit. You can easily see a blend benefiting from this.

We are also seeing the introduction of other varieties to the hill. Like Buscemi’s Contrada ‘Tarataci’, SRC’s ‘Rivaggi’ is blended with Grenache, their Etna Rosso with Sangiovese, the Alberello (which translates to bush vine) being the only 100% Nerello wine.

If you take a short trip from Etna to Faro, with only 35 acres of vines for the entire appellation, located on the North East tip of the island, Casematte are making excellent blends. Their top wine the ‘Faro’ blends Nerello Mascelese wines blended with Nerello Cappuccio, Nocciola, and Nero d’Avola.  The level of intrigue is off-tap, such complexity and harmony. I was fortunate enough to devour one a week ago. Accidentally leaving a half glass in the bottle proved I should have been more patient. The wine went to the next level with 24 hours of air! The Nocciola adds a degree of richness and generosity without overwhelming the Nerello. Somewhat like the Grenache in SRC’s Rivaggi. Casematte’s second wine the Peloro blends Nerello Mascalese with Nocciola and is a triumph.

In a nutshell, with varieties suited to the climate, old vines, and, good vineyard management there’s plenty of good material to work with. As lovers of delicious beverages, we got to watch, play, and, drink as the those who labour on the slopes of Etna and Faro strive to make even more exceptional wines.

What does it taste like?
Whilst Nerello Mascalese’s enormous bunches, with their big berries, result in wines of a relatively pale appearance, there is nothing insignificant about their aromas, flavours, and, textures.

The lower lying vineyards tend to yield bolder styles, while the higher sites offer greater restraint often being quite ethereal. Texturally the tannins often remind of a more supple Barolo.

You can read more about the wines of Etna in the Wine Bites Mag article ‘Getting Your Head Around Sicily’s Mount Etna’

Etna Rosso

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