A chemist by profession & intuition, Mirella Buscemi, was born near Siracusa. Inspired initially by her grandparents, who owned vines & made wine, Mirella fell in love with Etna & then met her ‘principe azzuro’ in Alberto Aiello Graci to whom she gave her hand in marriage ‘in exchange for’ a single 1.5ha old vineyard in the contrada of Tartaraci, near Bronte, Etna!
How old is the Tartaraci plot? Suffice to say that it was once the possession of ‘Ammiraglio Orazio Nelson’ (Admiral/Lord Horatio Nelson!) to whom it was given along with the feudal title of Duca/Duke di Bronte & 13,963ha (!), on 10th October 1799 in recognition of his role & fleet’s defence of the island of Sicily from Napoleon Bonaparte & the dastardly French who at that time were trying to annex the Bourbon south of Italy – Il Regno delle Due Sicilie – from the hands of King Ferdinando IV of Napoli & III of Sicily! (see foot of the page)
Fascinatingly, the circa 90 year old vines comprise not only Nerello Cappuccio & Nerello Mascalese for the rosso but also c. 30% Granaccia (Grenache), probably imported by the Bourbons & planted here at Tartaraci to offer a fruity softness & fragrance to the minerally Nerello…especially as the vineyard is at 980m asl!! The same viticultural approach was applied for the scarce quantity of bianco vines: here they planted the fruitier Grecanico (c. 30%) alongside the indigenous, but sapid Carricante (70%).
The two wines: Tartaraci Bianco (production only 300 bts of the inaugural 2017 vintage!) & Tartaraci Rosso (c. 2,900 bts for the 2016) lie outside the Etna Rosso DOC zone at 980m asl; the DOC zone is currently limited to vineyards planted between 600 – 850m asl. This means that the harvest is one of the latest on Etna, indeed the red grapes were picked on 1st Nov in 2016! The wines are made by Mirella at the Graci winery nearby, using cement/botte grande/tonneaux.
Act of Donation: the Duke of Bronte to Horatio Nelson, 10th October 1799
Atto di donazione della ducea di Bronte a Orazio Nelson, 10 ottobre 1799, ASP, ADB, busta 284, fogli non numerati; cfr. anche Ricostruzione delle vicende del titolo di duca di Bronte in relazione alla causa Nelson contro Bridport (1838-1847), il documento non è datato, ivi. Secondo la ricostruzione di Giuseppe Lo Giudice, «all’Abbazia di Maniaci erano annessi i feudi di S. Andrea, Samperi, Petrosino, Fioritta e metà del feudo Ilichito; al monastero di S. Filippo i feudi di S. Nicola De Petra, chiamato in seguito S. Nicolella o S. Nicola, Simantili, S. Giorgio Agrappidà, poi detto anche Grappidà, ed il feudo di Gollia; allo Stato di Bronte appartenevano, infine, i feudi Porticelli, Roccaro, Nave, Casitta, Corvo, Mangiuni, Tartaraci e San Pietro d’Ilichito» Il De Luca fa una romanzesca descrizione della cerimonia di consegna dell’atto di donazione al Nelson: «volendo il re Ferdinando rimeritare il signor Nelson, la sera del 3 settembre 1799, in un solenne convegno tenuto nel real palazzo, con l’intervento di Ministri di Stato e di magnati di rango, il grande ammiraglio si ebbe un diploma, con cui gli venne conferito il titolo di Duca di Bronte, con l’appannaggio dei redditi e diritti che il nuovo e grande Ospedale di Palermo godeva su Maniace e Bronte. (G. Lo Giudice, Comunità rurali nella Sicilia moderna. Bronte (1747-1853), Facoltà di Economia dell’Università degli Studi di Catania, Catania, 1969, p. 123).
Source: ‘Dal Feudo alla Proprietà: Il Caso della Ducea di Bronte’, Daniele Palermo, Associazione Mediterranea, 2012. Studi e ricerche – Mediterranea. Ricerche storiche ISBN 978-88-96661-17-8
Tartaraci Bianco, Sicilia DOC
Tartaraci Rosso, Sicilia DOC
2017 Tartaraci Bianco, Bronte – tasted April’18, only 300bts made of this field blend of 70% Carricante, 30% Grecanico, from 90 yo ancient alberello vines planted at c.980m asl in the contrada da Tartaraci, in the village of Bronte. A field blend in that the locals understood that above a certain altitude the rapier acidity of Carricante was best softened by the fruitiness of Grecanico, otherwise known as Greco-Calabro, coming from across the strait of Messina. Vinified in s/steel & used tonneaux, it shows Carricante’s vertical, racy, lemon pith, smoky, strident fruit that’s been mollified by the greengage, camomile fragrance & juiciness of the Grecanico! Exhilirating, snow pure!
2017 Tartaraci Rosso, Bronte – Tasted April 2019 from bottle. 4000bts produced. Not due to be released until Spring 2020, or when the 2016 is finished, as the 2017 will benefit from more time in bottle. From 90 yo, free-standing alberello trained vines grown at 900m asl, of which 70% are Nerello Cappuccio & Mascalese, while 30% are Granaccia (Grenache); planted to soften Nerello’s acidity at high altitude. Long maceration of about 20days then fermented part in tonneaux and part cement, then 18 months in bottle. 2017 was a hotter and dryer vintage than 2016. Darker and more purply in colour. More floral character, and notes of violets and little red fruits. Peppery, alive, exciting, with great depth. Some liquorice and eucalyptus, tannins still very prominent, but noble, and will soften with time.
2016 Tartaraci Rosso, Bronte – tasted April’18, 13.5%, only 2,900 bts made. Late harvested on 1st Nov 2016, this was Mirella’s maiden vintage. Vinified in the Graci cantina, in cement & a single 10HL botte grande for 18 mths. A beautiful purply garnet red (thanks to the Granaccia), highly perfumed, very fine, with lifted violets & rose notes, swirling, scented, racy, melograno/pomegranate, rose nuance, the Granaccia/Grenache fruit providing a softer breeze of gentle fruit… a wine that transports you to the black lava & clay soils of Etna!
….tasted again April 2019: 14% alc. 2800bts left. Bottled last year. Perfumed, open already, gentle sweet spice, soft red cherry, molto fresco. Silky tannins, bright, rose water. You don’t feel the alcohol. Delicious. Gentle smoky note. Honest, open, and Juicy. A lot softer and more mature than the 2017. Less floral and more developing, but long and fresh…..lovely clarity.