Confession: When I began working with an all-Italian wine list, I did not like Italian wine. I didn’t dislike it, of course. It just never really hit that fine point between being exciting and inherently, pleasurably delicious. Of course, as soon as I stopped working with an all-Italian list, I immediately missed it and its stereotypically sharp acidity.
The one region that I actively enjoyed working with from the get-go, however, was Sicily. Here was the lightness and brightness, the vivacity and complexity and deliciousness that I had been craving! It seemed fitting, then, to drink this Sicilian wine upon returning to my former restaurant for dinner this past weekend: the Tenuta della Terre Nere Etna Bianco.
Etna may be more known for its red wines, but its white wines are equally as exciting. Aided by the volcano’s elevation, white grapes here are able to get ripe and rich during sun-drenched days while cooler high-elevation air and nighttime temperature drops preserve acidity. The most noble white grape in Etna is Carricante, which has naturally high acidity and exhibits Etna’s minerality well. The Terre Nere Etna Bianco is an old-vine field blend based on Carricante along with Catarratto, the most planted white grape in Sicily, and several other grape varieties.
This Etna Bianco is actually less zingy than some, showcasing the broader, softer side of this island’s wine. The nose isn’t super aromatic, with soft red apple and citrus fruit and a peanut shell, almost Pinot Grigio-like earth. Though it remains round and creamy without sharp edges, the palate blossoms through with flavor, accented by rocky minerality. This is a wine that has complexity but doesn’t shove it in your face, content to accompany a meal rather than be the star, and sometimes, that’s exactly what is needed. It was yet another example that Sicily is full of surprises, worthy of attention from any type of wine lover, whatever your preconceived notions are.