Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Bianco Cuvée delle Vigne Niche Calderara Sottana 2018, $39.99 ($31.99)
Tenuta delle Terre Nere is doing more than perhaps any other producer in Sicily to demonstrate the potential quality of the wines of the region in general and Mount Etna specifically. While they have been long celebrated for their single vineyard, high elevation, red wines, they have recently started producing white wines with a similar level of ambition and care. The Vigne Niche Calderara Sottana is just the 5th vintage of this single vineyard, 100% Carricante wine, and it is already celebrated as one of, if not the best white wine from Sicily. The Caldera vineyard sits on the north side of mount etna between 600 and 650 meters. The vines are planted on almost pure volcanic rock (i.e. old lava flow), and average around 60 years old. Just 3000 bottles produced.
A photo of the Sottana cru in winter, to give you an idea of how drastically the elevation affects the climate of Mount Etna.
The best analogy I can give to this wine is of a top flight Chablis, extremely mineral and zippy yet with a breadth of texture and density of dry extract that transcends the genre. Decant this like you would a top white Burgundy.
Bonavita Rosato 2019, $24.99 ($19.99)
The region of Faro is on the very northeastern tip of Sicily, surrounding the city of Messina, just beyond the slopes of Mount Etna. Bonavita, an absolutely miniscule two hectare estate located on the steep hills overlooking the strait of Messina. They also make possibly the best rose in all of Italy (according to Ian D’agata, one of the world’s top authorities on Italian wine, at least). The rosato is a blend of Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Capuccio (the two great red grapes of Mount Etna are also the main focus of the wines of Faro), and a local grape called Nocera, prized for its bright acidity and beautiful red fruit aromas, which makes it perfect for rose. Again, just 3000 bottles of this are produced.
The view from the Bonavita vineyards, right on the North Eastern tip of the island, in view of the strait of Messina.
Expect an alluring mix of crushed cherries, offset by tangerine, rose petals, and the slightest hint of exotic savory spice and dark minerality. Gorgeous wine!
Gulfi Sicilia NeroBufaleffj 2016 $54.99 ($43.99)
Gulfi is the world’s greatest producer of Sicily’s other red wine, Nero d’Avola. Their focus is on producing a range of single vineyard, or Contrada, Neros, and I was thrilled to be able to secure enough of their TOP bottling for the Grand Crew this month. Gulfi is based in a subsection of the Vittoria region in south east of Sicily, in Pachino, which is right on the tip of the island. The Gulfi estate is actually working to have Pachino recognized with its own DOC as a particularly great place to grow Nero d’Avola. The Bufaleffj vineyard, in turn, is at the very tip of Pachino, planted in the middle of an ancient, circular volcanic trench. It is planted densely in the ash inflected clay and limestone soils, with most vines well over 40 years old at this point.
The various Contradas of Gulfi, Bufaleffj in red.
This is definitely a bigger wine, dark fruited, floral, and herbal all in equal measure. Yet a persistent acidity keeps the wine lifted and elegant. Drink with a hearty meal, and again this wine will definitely appreciate a decanting.