This is a stunning showcase of the quality and value of the wines coming out of Sicily these days. For many years, it was Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most planted red variety, that captured the wine world’s attention. But the Nero d’Avola craze has receded, and the excitement is now around the lesser-known Nerello Mascalese grape — and for good reason.
Nerello Mascalese produces phenomenal wines born in Sicily’s volcanic soils and bottled under the Etna Rosso denomination of origin (DOC), named after the highly active Mount Etna volcano. Tenuta delle Terre Nere’s 2019 Etna Rosso is a top example.
If you’re not familiar with Nerello Mascalese, think of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo — the perfumed red fruits of the former and the earthiness of the latter. Burgundy meets Barolo in wines that may be among the world’s greatest values right now.
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Tenuta delle Terre Nere’s 2019 Etna Rosso is the entry-level offering of this property owned by the Italian wine impresario Marc de Grazia and set on the northern slopes of Mount Etna. The grapes —95 percent Nerello Mascalese and five percent Nerello Cappuccio — are from organically farmed vines, both young and old.
The ruby-colored 2019 Etna Rosso is young and refreshing, but already refined and elegant with aromas and tastes of blueberry, raspberry, earth, wet stone, and hints of red and black licorice. It’s all framed by refreshing acidity and a fairly aggressive tannic structure. A year or so of aging in large French oak barrels is evident but doesn’t dominate. This is a wine to enjoy now or to lay down for a few years.
It was the perfect accompaniment to a roasted cauliflower and pancetta dish I’ve been making, seasoned and tossed just before serving with a mixture of chopped Kalamata olives, garlic, and red pepper flakes combined in olive oil. Other pairings include roasted meats, chicken, salmon, and a variety of pasta dishes.
You’ll find Tenuta delle Terre Nere’s 2019 Etna Rosso for around $22, which — at a fraction of the price of a good bottle of Burgundy or Barolo — makes it a real bargain.