Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso, 2008

This wine was recommended to me by Roz Mayberry and Penny Ross of D&W Markets. And what a recommendation!

Roz and Robert Mayberry compare the wine to a top French Burgundy, and I agree. Like many top Pinots, the color is a light ruby and the wine has an ethereal, almost weightless quality. Robert suggests letting it aerate and open up a couple of hours, but even without doing that, I get intense aromas of cherries, mixed berries, pomegranates and flowers. There is also a haunting mineral quality, not as earthy as Pinot Noir but maybe even more distinctive and pleasing. In the mouth, the wine is every bit as elegant and hard to resist. But it's deceptively tannic and acidic, and I would expect the wine to age beautifully, at least over six to eight years. If the wine is this good now, how much better can you expect it to get? I hope I have the resistance to save at least a bottle or two to find out.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere is produced by Marco and Iano de Grazia, who recently purchased about 30 hectares of old vineyards on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily. Even though Sicily is far to the South, the vineyards are the highest in Europe, exposing the grapes to warm, sunny days and cool nights plus an "airyness" that limits the formation of mildew. The soil has been "enriched" by 700,000 years of volcanic eruptions, creating virtually endless soil variations even within a single vineyard. The Terre Nere red wines are all produced from 98% Nerello Mascalese and 2% Nerello Cappuccio. Vinification is similar to that used for red Burgundy: maceration and fermentation lasting 10 to 15 days followed by malolactic fermentation. The top selections are then aged for about 18 months in French oak, 25% new. This less expensive Etna Rosso bottling, however, has clearly seen little or no new oak.

The wines of Tenuta delle Terre Nere are not very well known, and only 20 cases were brought into Michigan. Most of the allotment was purchased (wisely) by D&W and is now available for $16.99--minus a 15% discount for a six-pack purchase February 20 and 21.

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