Introduced by general manager Marino Braccu, this the first Sicilian wine that I came across in 3 star Michelin Otto e Mezzo Bombana and I was completely smitten on the first sip. Simultaneous familiar in style yet unique in its structure and notes, I immediately logged this into the memory as a wine to remember. This was therefore the producer I wanted to visit the most and also one that I almost didn't get to visit because the man doesn't check his emails enough. However at the eleventh hour, I manage to secure an appointment.
Giuseppe Russo has an interesting journey back into wine. Unlike the others winemakers mentioned before, he is actually from Sicily. His family had been winemakers on the island for generations yet growing up he had other interests such as music and literature. However after the death of his father, he felt a strong calling back to the region. Therefore he started to pick up winemaking in 2005 and named the azienda viticola after his late father, Girolamo. Starting with little to no skills and childhood memories, he leaned heavily upon those at Tenuta delle Terre Nere for advice. However in this case, the discipline continued to evolve and grower, so much that he has developed wines with even more elegance, complexity and finesse than those of his mentors.
He has 15ha across the area with three contrade: Feudo, Feudo di Mezzo and San Lorenzo. Most of the vineyards have been replanted and are worked organically. It is interesting here that he uses a combination of alberello and modern pruning, which he says has its own advantages and disadvantages but he is still experimenting. The whites varietals are the typical indigenous varieties such as Carricante and Most of the red varietals are Nerello Mascarese with some Nerello Cappuccio, which I find makes the wines taste more lush and dense.
Going in, I already loved the wines but nothing prepared me for the warmth and generosity of Giuseppe and his business partner, Dante. The other vineyards had small operations compared to those at Bordeaux and some in Burgundy but it was Giuseppe himself that drove me around his plots, explaining his philosophy with his hands in the air (and not the wheel might I add) screaming "I MAKE my wines!!!", commenting on his vision and future for his winery (a revamped historical building to be turned into a B'n'B with an amazing view of Feudo and the valley) to pouring almost all his cuvees including his top San Lorenzo (permanently out of stock in HK) and include tank samples so that I could sample the different vintages. I am not sure what more can you ask out of a winemaker at a visit. Coming out of it, I became even more enamoured, so much that I am now utterly and totally convinced that Sicily will join Piedmont and Tuscany to a signature winemaking region of Italy.
100% Nerello Mascarese. Light yet structured with minerality, very refreshing. Sublime to drink al fresco on the a hot day.
A Rina 2016
A blend of Nerello Mascerese and Nerello Cappuccio. Intense tobacco with a touch of of smoke on the nose, deep and layered red fruit notes on the palate. Ripe cranberries, sweet cherries and a touch of a strawberry with a long finish, gorgeous lush finish. This punches weigh above it's weight and possible one of the best entry level Etna Rossos I have tasted so far on the trip.
Blend of Nerello Masacarese and Nerello Cappuccio. From the tank, this is was a bit reduced on the nose at first but quickly went away with a few swirls of the glass. Building on the strength A Rina had, it was even more complex with more noticeable wood but equally elegant and sublime. This is sharper with more acidity but wholly expressive.
Blend of Nerello Mascarese and Nerello Cappuccio. Comparatively to the 2016, this is more balanced and 'done'. It is supremely elegant with finesse "à la Burgundy" (even though I am starting to hate the term for reasons here). The nose is more nuanced and delicate but is perfumed and hauntingly beautiful - crushed red fruit and layers of plum coming through with sweet spice.
San Lorenzo 2016
Blend of Nerello Mascarese and Nerello Cappuccio. Straight of the tank, super noticeably oak and not that expressive on the nose. However the palate is opulent and giving, approachable like a young Gevrey. It is surprisingly well balanced, structure and clearly built to age. More strawberry than cranberry here, with some plum and even vegetal/forest floor notes.
San Lorenzo 2015
Blend of Nerello Mascarese and Nerello Cappuccio. In the bottle now, this is absolutely ravishing and possibly the highlight of my entire trip. Within the first whiff, it gave me flint, toast with chocolate and liquorice; in mouth, it was ripe and intense black cherries and plum, violet, more sweet spice and tobacco. Somehow it was even finer with more finesse than the Feudo, tasting not far from Clos St. Jacques or perhaps a very good VR 1er Cru. Glorious.
Wines tasted in early June, 2018 at the estate. To visit, contact him on his website here.