15 March 2015

The major red wine of Etna is made of Nerello Mascalese, an ancient grape, rare except on this volcano, where it is still splendidly cultivated in old and ancient bush vines. It has little color, large bunches with strong, thin skins, and it ripens late – for the vines planted at 800 meters and above, as late as November.

Nerello Mascalese is a variety that grows exclusively on the Etna volcano in the north east of Sicily. It is a largish, late ripening grape. Nerello is planted at a variety of altitudes, and the grape – thought by some to be a botanical ancestor of Pinot Noir – takes on the character of the terroir.

During fermentation, Nerello has notes of marzipan and a boorish, carnal quality; often, there’s a hint of nail polish when the yeasts are disturbed, but in every other sense, the fermentations on Etna happen easily because of the lack of pesticides, up to now, on the mountain. Notes of citrus and camphor come into the wine from the lavas, and an aromatic acidity gives the impression of a sort of reddened white. When well made, Nerello Mascalese improves over eight years, then begins to age slowly, gaining hints of a sweet smokiness.


– Andrea Franchetti

Excerpt contributed to Armando Rotoletti’s “Etna, Wine, People/Vini e Volti dell’Etna”, which will be released in both English & Italian this month

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