A southern Italian masterclass – Etna and more

I recently attended a tasting that proved to be a masterclass in southern Italian wines with wines from Etna, Basilicata, Taurasi, Sardinia, Calabria and more. Sicily (and Etna in particular) and the nerello mascalese grape variety produced the stand out wines. Nerello mascalese has an exciting “nebbiolo like” future if this tasting is representative. Elsewhere, as is often the case with Italy, there was considerable variation in style. Notes follow.

Benanti Etna Bianco 2015
This wine is 100% carricante (a white). Plantings totalled only 200 hectares in 2010. Its aromatics remind of minerals and smoke. The palate is mid to full bodied with good length and acidity. Delicious saline drinking that will of course suit seafood. Rating: Good to Very Good. Abv: 12%.

Le Casematte Faro 2011
This wine is a blend of nerello mascalese, nerello cappuccio, nocera and nero d’avola. It presents as terrifically moreish, with very attractive and savoury aromas of cherry, florals and a saline overtone. The palate has great length, firm acidity and a tea leaf character. This is a very enjoyable wine that can be approached now. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14%.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2015
This is probably the wine of the bracket.  The label prominently claims prephylloxera grapes, which is unusual but I guess the fact is that it’s a comparatively rare situation in Europe cf. most of Australia.  In the glass, it has a mineral and sour cherry aroma. The palate has a noticeable lick of seemingly new oak, with towards long length and mid weight tannins. Its integration improves, and the prominence of the oak declines, substantially with air. This is unquestionably a serious and very good wine. It can be approached now but will benefit from cellaring. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14%.

Benanti Rovittello Etna Rosso 2013
This wine is a blend of nerello mascalese (90%) and nerello cappuccino and presented as perhaps the most refined of the Etnas. It has restrained aromatics of florals, minerals and red currants. The palate is towards full bodied, with really fresh acidity, long length and tannins that became more pronounced with air. This wine too would benefit from further time in the cellar, but probably for not as long as the previous wine. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 13.5%.

Salvatore Molettieri Vigna Cinque Querce Riserva Taurasi 2004
This wine – a Taurasi – is from the aglianico grape variety. It presented somewhat rustically, with aromas of sour cherry and licorice. The palate has high acidity and reminded of tea leaves, dried herbs, old wood and had a twiggy impression. Certainly ready to drink, this is a particular style that will have its adherents. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%.

Librandi Gravello Val di Neto IGT Rosso 2011
This wine is from the seldom locally seen gaglioppo grape variety, together with a 40% contribution from cabernet sauvignon. While interesting to taste a variety I had not previously seen, this wine proved, for me, a very strong expression of gamey ripe fruit with a spirit note.  Abv: 14%.

Santadi Terre Brune Carignano del Sulcis Superiore 2010
A surprise carignan from Sardinia. It does not really resemble carignans from further north in France or Spain which seem more powerful. It has a quite earthy and herbal aroma.  The palate reminds of tea leaves, with some bitter tannins that are comfortable and earthy.  The alcohol figure (15%) was something of a surprise.  Rating: Good. Abv: 15%.

Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2005
This wine most closely resembled the Taurasi in style, which is perhaps no surprise given they both share the same grape variety, albeit this wine is from Basilicata rather than Campania. In the glass, there are aromatics of cedar, licorice, spirit, pure fruit and tea leaves. The palate is tannic with good length. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%.

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