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This Young Wino:

a new online Asia-based wine journal for young winos by young winos.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna, Sicily

Tenuta delle Terre Nere was started by Marco di Grazia, who ran his own Italian wine import company in the U.S. since the 1980s. Their first vintage was 2002 and his wines are a runaway success ever since. Their holdings are substantial, over 6 contrade: Calderara Sottana, San Lorenzo, Bocca  d'Orzo, Santo Spirito, Guardiola and Feudo di Mezzo. Even with 55ha into 24 parcels, they still have to occasionally buy grapes and therefore, they hope to acquire more parcels in very near future. Their most prized contrada is the Calderara Sottana, which is a site that is strongly promoted and emphasised by the estate. Lying at 6-700m above sea level, it is the rockiest cru in their opinion, full of large lava rocks and scant volcanic ashy soil in between. Within this small contrada, they chose two cuvees, one labelled explicitly 'Grand Terroir Ellittica' and one specifically 'Prephylloxera' vines (aged 130 years old) within Calderara Sottana. 

Going through all their wines, from their Etna Bianco, to their Etna Rosato and of course their top grand cru level wine Calderara Sottana, there are noticeable differences in quality yet each are solid and compelling in their own right. Particularly is their Etna Rosato, which I have noted separately in a quick IG post. 

Out of the first three Sicilian pioneers of the early 2000s, Terre Nere is by the far the biggest winery of them all, with their production at 250,000 bottles per year vs. the others' at 1-150,000 bottles. They are perhaps also the most recognisable producer in Etna Rosso--they occupy 6 places of the top 10 most searched Etna Rosso wines on Wine-Searcher. I think it's safe to say they are the most mainstream of the Etna Rosso wineries. 

Mainstream has a bad connotation in most context, implying a mass market type of commercialisation however in this case, it is arguably a huge pro in Terre Nere's favour. To be able to maintain the quality of their wines, with the large number of cuvees and the overall quantity of wines is a feat. Their production is large for Sicily, yet in reality pales in comparison to the millions other big wineries on the Italian mainland produce per annum. Why I would call them mainstream though, is while the estate produces solid beautiful wines however they are standard and straightforward. They are not funky like the natural wines of Frank Cornelissen nor eccentric like Passopisciaro's Franchetti, they are textbook no bullshit blind of indigenous grapes for reds and whites in soft yet noticeable oak finish. While they might not be most creative, they make up for with their execution in spades. What's not to like? 

 

Etna Rosato 2017

100% Nerello Mascarese. It's intense with clear minerality, quite a bit of lemon and light strawberry notes. It's delicate but splashy - a very finely balanced well. 

 

Etna Bianco Classico 2017

Blend of local varieties and various parcels. Another great white representative of the region. It is fresh lemon and tart apple notes, great acidity and minerality to complement it. Easy to drink and enjoy straightaway though part of me is very curious for any aged carricanate. That would be interesting. 

 

Etna Rosso 2016

95% Nerello Mascarese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio. This intense, punchy wine full of sour cherries and lush strawberries. Almost slightly floral in some places. Much more complex that what you would expect for an entry level wine. The touch of oak is appreciated as it adds without obfuscating the elegance that makes it so easy to drink.

 

Feudo di Mezzo Etna Rosso DOC 2016 

Blend of Nerello Mascarese and Nerello Cappuccio. This is the first to harvest and this plot is made up of old vines 50+ years old. Complexity is turned up to a whole other level here, with bright fresh red fruits has also plummier darkier notes here. Oak is more noted but nothing distracting.

 

Guardiola Etna Rosso DOC 2016

Blend of Nerello Mascarese and Nerello Cappuccio. This the highest contrada they own. The altitude is noticeable as everything is fresher and silkier in many aspects, from the mouth feel to the finish. The minerality is also intense here with the flintiness, adding huge complexity to the pretty fruit. 

 

Calderara Sottana Etna Rosso DOC 2016

Blend of Nerello Masarese and Nerello Cappuccio. This is their normal cuvée not the one that is considered "pre-phylloxera" (that is their top cuvée). Extremely rich and lush, this is a wine that needs a lot of time to even open up. However it a given that it will reward immensely, a generous mix of red fruits and sweet spice, with hints of mushroom and leather round the corner should it be allowed to fully develop age. Wonderful.

 

All wines tasted from the bottle at the estate, early June 2018. To visit, email them at visite@tenutaterrenere.com.

Girolamo Russo, Etna, Sicily

Frank Cornelissen Winery, Etna, Sicily