The region of Etna, famous for its black lava soils and elegant red wines made from the Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio grapes, has been undergoing a revival since 2000, lured by juicy EU grants and spectacular scenery. Once carpeted with vines – the fruit of which was allegedly used to in bulk to prop up the wines of the Langhe and of Burgundy – it has now become an artisan’s playground, a mix of hobbyist and commercial winegrowers.
Alberto Graci’s patch of heaven is part 50 year old, 8500 high density, free-standing ‘alberello’ vines at 1000 metres above sea level that produce naturally low yields amid the black grainy soils, part younger trained vines on flatter, lower sandier terra. He prefers to tend his vines as naturally as possible.
The 22ha are located in & around Passopisciaro, Castiglione di Sicilia & Solicchiata, on both VSP/spalliera rows lower down & free standing alberello on the higher volcanic terraces. Notable vineyards/zones of Arcuria, Feudi di Mezzo, Barbabecchi.
2016 witnessed his 12th harvest, with vintage 2011 a year of change for Alberto: gone are the days of more extraction, shorter macerations, earlier bottling, more lees, no filtering. Now he gives the wines time to make themselves: longer, cleaner macerations (for red), less colour the better, used botte & cement, less barriques, two winters to allow natural stabilisation, later bottling, filtered wines.
> Certified organic.
Etna Rosato, Passopisciaro
Etna Bianco, Passopisciaro
Etna Bianco Contrada da Arcuria, Passopisciaro
Etna Rosso, Passopisciaro
Etna Rosso Contrada da Arcuria, Passopisciaro
Etna Rosso Feudi di Mezzo, Passopisciaro
‘Quota 1000’ Contrada da Barbabecchi, Solicchiata
2017 Etna Rosato, Castiglione di Sicilia – tasted from cement Feb’18; Pale pink. Nerello Mascalese 100% To be bottled in March. Perfumed, wild flowers, pink grapefruit, mandarin. Balmy, summery, sunny, spremuta, very mineral, moreish, hard to spit! Only cement. 13 abv.
2016 Etna Rosato, Castiglione di Sicilia- 13%, 100% Nerello Mascalese from 12/13 yo vines from the lower vineyards where there’s less rock more terra/acqua, only pressed juiced (55% of the mass) post destalking hence the prettiest of pale salmon pink, pure mandarin skin, rose petal, pesca aromas, very fine but also with material, whiff of the Med & of Etna! To taste: fragrant melagrano/pomergranate, lineare, tight, salato, lots of tightly packed cassis fruit finish. 2016: wet spring, fresh summer, rain during harvest, so quantity & quality, so elegant like 2015 & 2013, while 2014 was hot, dry & thick-skinned
2017 Etna Bianco, Castiglione di Sicilia – tasted from cement tank Feb’18; Carricante (60%) and Cataratto 40% Lowest vines, at 600m. Lemon and ripe stone fruit, apricot. Lovely concentration, Sapid, mineral, textured. Sunny, with wild fennel and citrus peel. Lovely, generous and elegant. 13 abv.
2016 Etna Bianco, Castiglione di Sicilia- 12.8%, 65% Carricante, 35% Catarratto, vinified in cement, beautiful pale/watery lemon/lime colour, nose of grapefruit skin, smokiness, lemon/cedro, quasi mandarino notes; to taste polpa/pulp, pith, cedro skin, gorgeous poise, verging on the bitter lime, cleansing…
2017 Etna Bianco Contrada da Arcuria, Castiglione di Sicilia – tasted from tank Feb’18; Slightly more compact vs straight Etna bianco. Citrus skin, fennel, bay, very precise and peppery, spremuta, taught, energetic, nervosa, salato!
2016 Etna Bianco Contrada da Arcuria, Castiglione di Sicilia – literally ‘from the heart’, 13%, 100% Carricante a blend of mostly 20HL cement but also some tonneaux to give some panna/creaminess, fermented using wild yeast; all together tighter, lighter in colour, uncompromising, almost austero, pith & verbena, great tension, energetico, deatil, bitter lemon/lime…
2016 Etna Rosso, Castiglione di Sicilia – tasted Feb’18, to be bottled end March. Bright pale ruby. Young vines – Planted 2005. Half matured in cement and another half in botti grandi. Wild red cherry, raspberry, eucalyptus, menta, blood orange, fleshy, prominent yet finely woven tannins, need to open and integrate into the wine, mineral, cool fruit core, lovely. Long, savoury finish. 20 days maceration (long) 2016 was not too cold. Okay amount of rain (a bit in September), dynamic vintage. Nerello was harvested end October.
2015 Etna Rosso, Castiglione di Sicilia – 14%, Nerello Mascalese, fermented cemet & 42Hl Stockinger botte grande, 1 month on the skins, notably from the ‘Sopra il Pozzo’ vineyard, more rain during harvest than in 2016 but it wasn’t hot, selection key, with Alberto reducing the crop by 25% to arrive at a grande annata for him! Nose of the Etna Rosso perfumed raspberry/rose/blood red oranges, palate of fragrant violets, indeed a violet cream character, firm but fine fruti tannins, hint of kirsch, of joy…
2016 Etna Rosso Contrada da Arcuria, Castiglione di Sicilia -tasted from tank Feb’18, to be bottled July ’18; Very pale, softer perfume vs 17. Delicate, sweet spice. Raspberry, creamy, peppery, elegant but powerful tannins, juicy, extremely mineral, electric, energetic, some wood on the finish….sfumatura, mandarin zip, difficult to read this powerful vintage!
2015 Etna Rosso Contrada da Arcuria, Castiglione di Sicilia – Nerello Mascalese, from alberello 12 – 80 yo vines at (Quota) 600m asl, c. 5k bts produced, more ethereal than the Rosso, very fine indeed, perfume of mandarin/citrus, the detail of Mascalese, cosi fine, trasparente, lots of light & energy, Vosne esque!
2016 Etna Rosso Feudi di Mezzo, Castiglione di Sicilia – tasted from tank Feb’18, second vintage, 85 yo vines. Nerello Cappuccio gives added colour (& a certain rusticity). 10 % or so, rest Nerello Mascalese. Rich concentrated nose. Cranberry, raspberry, clove. Palate is mineral, very juicy, complex, tannins are elegant and structured, it has lovely roundness and creamy texture, serious.
2015 Etna Rosso Feudi di Mezzo, Castiglione di Sicilia – first produced only recently, from just below the cantina at 580m asl on rocky lava soils, 10% Cappuccio gives a much darker colour, a hint of (Carbone) Aglianico del Vulture even (!), smoky volcanic notes, squarer tannnins, denser, bold…
2015 Quota 400 ‘Sopra Il Pozzo’, Castiglione di Sicilia – still in tank, first tasted in 2017, & again here in Feb’18; from Alberto’s favourite plot in the Contrada da Arcuria…fascinating, lifted, ethereal red cassis, fragolini/wild strawberry detail, & such electricity! Riper red berry, sweet spice, little wild strawberry, juicy, delicious, sapid and mineral. Moreish, long, very delicious.
2015 ‘Quota 1000’ Contrada da Barbabecchi, Solicchiata – tiny production from 1000m asl & 90 yo alberello vines on lava terraces, vinified/aged in Francois Freres tonneaux, hence the Corton esque character, compact, kirsch, blood red oranges, generous, decadent, soft tannins, more Burgundy than Etna! To be bottled in March ’18.