Great Value Wines: 10 Etna Rossos for Under $40
With the amount of exceptional wines coming out of the Mount Etna region of Sicily are also coming some great values. We’ve picked out 10 tasteful choices to add to your wine list. The post Great Value Wines: 10 Etna Rossos for Under $40 appeared first on JamesSuckling.com.
Our recent special report on Sicily, featuring more than 350 wines from the southern Italian island, highlighted the area around Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna, as being ripe with choice offerings.
Senior Editor Stuart Pigott reported that nearly all the two dozen wines that scored 95 points or higher in the report came from Etna. Despite the ever-present volcanic threat, the wine scene there has blossomed. Nearly 200 wineries now operate on Etna’s slopes, using grapes from vineyards all situated at elevations from 400 meters to 1,000 meters.
The rugged landscape, with old vines rooted in black volcanic soil, makes for breathtaking views, but the real icing on the cake for Etna is the value for money you get from the unique personality of the terroir, which comes through with a touch of Mediterranean elegance.
Etna Rossos should be an excellent education for wine lovers who might confuse flavor concentration with the form or mouthfeel of the wines. The best are usually concentrated but hardly hefty, round or viscous.
The pale nerello mascalese, often enhanced by the slightly darker nerello cappuccio, makes for confidently transparent, medium-bodied and structured wine that can easily be overlooked by those who only seek what is most conspicuous in a bottle.
They are nimble and nuanced wines, toned by the bright berry fruit and the strikingly dusty, ashy notes that are considered a part of the terroir’s dark, volcanic intrigue. The century-old vines that concentrate the quintessential flavors in a pristine, mineral, and linear package offer an unforgettable aesthetic experience.
As a late-ripening variety, nerello mascalese almost perfectly reflects the personality of each harvest and provenance of the wine, much like pinot noirs and nebbiolos do. The Etna Rosso wines that champion the cool and rainy vintages, like 2018, are also more likely to transmit that pinot noir red-fruit elegance and sensibility with a bit of herbal, ashy, sulfurous wildness.
The best that come from warmer, drier years, like 2017, might be better defined by their angular structure, spicy Mediterranean character and tarry, mineral, and dried-fruit accent – something that may otherwise lead you to think of a minerally nebbiolo, Brunello/Chianti or a high-toned grenache.
At the heart of great Etna wines is the focus on the vineyard, and increasingly, the “cru/Contrada” concept is taking Etna’s unique terroir to the next level, which might explain why Marco de Grazia of leading producer Tenuta delle Terre Nere would describe Etna as the “Mediterranean Burgundy.” There are now 133 crus in Etna, with a much higher concentration of single vineyards on the northern slope in the townships of Castiglione di Sicilia and Randazzo.
However, Benanti’s new release of their cru wine, “Contrada Monte Serra,” is a top pick from the lesser winery-populated south flank. We rated the striking 2019 vintage highly, and even though it is not yet available on the market, this wine represents incredible value for money based on the average prices of the previous two vintages.
That said, the great value of Etna Rosso is not limited to single-vineyard offerings now that much of it is sold under the labels of crus, and prices have risen accordingly. But don’t forget that the more generic Etna Rosso wines also deliver surprising quality.
Below are 10 bottles of Etna Rosso available on the market for under $40. While they are not cru/Contrada wines, they are great introductions to the unique terroirs of the region. Being fresh, transparent and high-toned, they are tasteful choices if you’re looking for lighter and minerally attractive reds with a savory Mediterranean elegance.
– Zekun Shuai, Associate Editor
Tasca d’Almerita Nerello Mascalese Etna Rosso Ghiaia Nera 2019 – JS95
Previous Vintage Price: $21
Planeta Etna Rosso 2019 – JS94
U.S. Price: $33
Torre Mora Etna Rosso Scalunera 2018 – JS93
International Price: $22
Cusumano Etna Rosso Alta Mora 2018 – JS92
International Price: $15