A first from this region for Atlas, find Simon's offer below on 2015 Etna Rosso, Moganazzi-Volte Sciara, Le Vigne di Eli.
It would be over the top to say that a grape variety called Nerello Mascalese is causing a stir in the wine world, but it would be accurate to say that interest in wines – largely from this variety – grown on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily is building at a significant rate. This comment is not purely taking into account consumer demand and critical acclaim, it is also highlights notable vineyard purchases made just recently. Angelo Gaja of Barolo fame has, together with a long-standing friend Alberto Graci, bought 51 acres in Biancavilla on the active volcano’s southwest slopes. Always regarded as canny, Gaja is by no means the only high profile producer from elsewhere in Italy to have holdings on Etna’s slopes. Andrea Franchetti of Tenuta di Trinoro in Tuscany, to name another, owns Passopisciaro, which his family bought in 2000.
So, what is all the fuss about? Nerello Mascalese, prounounced ‘nair-rello mask-ah-lay-zay’, is said to have a close genetic relationship with Tuscany’s Sangiovese and possibly originates from a crossing of Sangiovese and another variety. Irrespective of its origins, it produces wines that are comparatively light ruby in colour, often appearing a little more evolved than they are, and offers pleasing red berry fruit aromas, slightly floral, with telltale earthier mineral notes so typical of Etna. It possesses good fruit sweetness but the palate finishes dry with good supporting tannins. In general, these are remarkably elegant wines... some suggest stylistic similarities with lighter Nebbiolo and others see a reference to Pinot Noir. Carlo Franchetti, cousin of Andrea, perhaps says it best: - It’s a grape that’s kind of in between Burgundy and Barolo, so it has the elegance of Burgundy but the tannins close to Barolo, although Barolo is bit more tannic.’ Given the quality to value offered by various wines from Etna, it is easy to see why there is a buzz about the region.
I am pleased to offer a wine from a small estate owned by Marc de Grazia, who runs his own wine distribution company as well as two estates on Etna. Terre Nere is certainly the best known, regularly receiving plaudits from critics. Ian d’Agata, who writes for Antonio Galloni’s vinous.com, commented in December 2016 that de Grazia’s ‘red wines rank among Italy’s best’. What few also realise is that, aside from the headlining Terre Nere estate, de Grazia also owns an estate dedicated to his daughter, Elena, called ‘Le Vigne di Eli’ from which part of the sale proceeds go to Florence’s Meyer Pediatric Hospital. The labels showcase his young daughter’s drawings, with new labels each year.
Le Vigne di Eli is a small estate situated on the northern slope of Mount Etna, producing red wines and a little white. The main two small vineyards (located within two well regarded Crus, Feudo di Mezzo and Moganazzzi-Voltasciara) are largely planted with Nerello Mascalese, with Nerello Capuccio and Carricante in support. Having purchased the estate in 2006, de Grazia says he is likely to add to the estate as and when small, sought after vineyard parcels become available.
I am pleased to be offering the 2015 Moganazzi here which we tasted last week. Please see below for my full note.
2015 Etna Rosso, Moganazzi-Volte Sciara, Le Vigne di Eli
£135 per 6 bottle case in bond.
Made from 30-40-year-old vines, the 2015 Moganazzi shows a deep ruby colour in the glass and aromas reveal hints of spice to its juicy red cherry fruit. What impresses most is the texture on the palate; this has a layered softness and a hint of creaminess, with really beautiful clarity and weight. While showing fine precision and a lifted almost violet touch to the fruit, this is immensely appealing in its current form. The 2015 has brought out an added note of exuberance here, with the earthier, mineral qualities so associated with Etna underscoring a deep, vibrant fruit. Surprisingly long and persistent, this is an incredibly classy example of Etna Rosso and frankly represents something of a snip. It will undoubtedly age over the next five to six years, but there is certainly no necessity to wait based on this showing. Drink 2017-2022. (SL)
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