Coraggio e passione, per unire 2 mondi apparentemente distanti: la Danimarca e la Sicilia. Due parole per descrivere l’idea meravigliosa di Anne-Louise Mikkelsen, la Karen Blixen dei vini dell’Etna, di Tenuta di Aglaea.
“La Sicilia è terra d’invasione per eccellenza, è il luogo del riposo di ogni guerriero” scriveva Pietrangelo Buttafuoco su Il Foglio nel 2003. E citava “Soldier’s guide to Sicily“, la guida che nel 1943 il generale Eisenhower fece consegnare a ciascuno dei 450.000 soldati americani che sarebbero sbarcati in Sicilia, tradotta e ripubblicata da Sellerio: «Invasori e dominatori che si sono succeduti in tutte le epoche, hanno oppresso la popolazione. Greci, romani, cartaginesi, vandali, goti, bizantini, arabi, normanni, tedeschi, francesi, napoletani e infine gli italiani hanno dominato l’Isola».
Put down the Pinot Noir and step away from the corkscrew. There’s a new light red in town, and — I’m going to say it —it’s better.
Nerello Mascalese isn’t some sommelier favorite that’s hard to pronounce and impossible to find outside of hipster wine bars. It’s the people’s grape of Mount Etna, Sicily, and one of the few varieties that have survived centuries of trends, phylloxera, and volcanic eruptions.
Sicily is no stranger to grapevines, but most of the island’s modern winemaking has focused on bulk production and sweet Marsala. While certain growers were caving to economic pressures and replanting ancient vineyards with high-yielding varieties destined for bulk wine, Nerello Mascalese continued to silently thrive. A longtime local favorite, it’s also getting its due beyond the confines of the Mediterranean’s largest island. Continue reading “This versatile Italian red is Sicily’s answer to Pinot noir (VinePair)”→
Dalla terrazza gli occhi affogano fra le striature autunnali degli alberelli Etnei, coricati sui substrati, ricchi di pomice e cipria, di due sciare vulcaniche, a contrada Rovitello. Sotto la superficie, i ricordi antichi di eruzioni si attorcigliano fra polveri di manganese e ferro pronti a sprigionarne i profumi fra le profonde radici di viti prefilosseriche.
Ci troviamo a Castiglione di Sicilia, in visita a Tenuta di Fessina, altro appuntamento speciale del nostro ottobre Etneo, accolti, con grande simpatia e professionalità, da Jacopo (Maniaci) e Giuseppe. Jacopo ci racconta di come la toscana Silvia Maestrelli, nel 2007, in collaborazione con Federico Curtaz, si innamori di questo lembo di Montagna e acquisti questo vecchio vigneto di Nerello Mascalese. Un vero e proprio “coup de foudre”, che la spinge ad acquistare 7 ettari di vigna e a produrre solo 5 giorni dopo la prima annata di Musmeci Rosso (nome dedicato proprio al precedente proprietario, tale Ignazio Musmeci). Continue reading “Le Sciare di Silvia”→
Sep 15: The new Sicilian joint venture of the ‘Prince of Piedmont’ and the Wine Enthusiast Man of the year Angelo Gaja and the Etna producer Alberto Graci, is getting ready for the first harvest next month, to be fermented at Graci’s winery in the village of Passopisciaro on the north slope of Mount Etna and sold through Gaja Distribuzione, the distribution arm of Gaja family
I met Angelo Gaja, the iconic producer of Gaja wines in Piedmont with wineries also in Bolgheri and Montalcino in Tuscany, in 2002. When I met the Man from Barbaresco, in 2003 at the Ca’Marcanda winery in Bolgheri and asked him if he had plans of buying more wineries, Gaja told me he had several offers from foreign producer to collaborate but he declined because he liked to have the vines always under his nose so he could monitor the grape quality.
While interviewing him at his winery in Barbaresco in June 2009, he said, ‘I am still getting offers every week but I still feel the same. Besides, now I am not that young. The kids have grown up. They have to decide. If they want to do it they can go ahead.’ He was then 69 years old, at an age where most men think of retiring. But he was focussing on shaping his daughters Gaia and Rossana who are now totally involved in the business along with younger brother Giovanni.
While reporting the Vertical Tasting of top-ended Gaja wine Sorì San Lorenzo 1971-2011 in November 2014, Antonio Galloni, the American expert on Italian wines, wrote, “Angelo and Lucia Gaja’s children, Gaia, Rossana and Giovanni, are now increasingly involved in the family business. Generational succession is the single greatest challenge facing Piedmont’s wineries today. If Angelo and Lucia Gaja can take their hands off their estate, to their children and give them the freedom to make decisions, they will succeed where so many others before them have failed.”
The succession seemed to be complete when the siblings brought back the IGT single vineyards iconic wines like Sori San Lorenzo into the DOCG Barbaresco fold with his blessings and Gaia Gaja so admitting.
Therefore it came as a surprise in April this year when, at the age of 77 and almost 50 years after taking reins of the family winery, Angelo announced stepping beyond the mainland Italy (both Montalcino and Bolgheri in Tuscany are at a motorable distance from his home in Barbaresco) and going to the volcanic Etna region in Sicily. And for the first time he decided to partner outside the family in a business venture when he chose to collaborate with Alberto Graci (pronounced Gra-chi) as his equal joint venture partner to buy vineyards and set up a separate winery.
At around 900 meters high, Frank Cornelissen‘s wine estate sits at the limit of where viticulture was done historically, and also today.
Wine has been growing on the slopes of Mount Etna for over 2,000 years and only now is it catching the eye of investors, with several large Italian wine producers recently investing in the region.
“Every morning you wake up the first thing you do is looking at this mountain,” Cornelissen told CNBC. “It (Mount Etna) is a sign of life. It’s pretty fearsome when it explodes; it is, for me, very attractive also.”
The Sicily-based winemaker employs 20 young workers and along with himself and his wife, they run the 24-hectare wine estate. Cornelissen’s natural approach to wine and the resources he has in the foothills of Mount Etna have defined his product.
“My approach to wine is very much combining the ancient with what today is available in quality. I think this is a great period for people who can make choices,” he said.”Now the soil is black, it’s very unusual because it can go from literally rocks, and then compact rock, to a powder. It is full of minerals, it has a great quality of drainage and so vines can last centuries“.
The forests on the volcano Etna contain hundreds of thousands of chestnut trees. Over the last millennia the forests have served as a resource for wood barrels and tanks.
When compared to other wood containers, research has proven that the chestnut wood helps the red wines (Etna Rosso) retain deeper color for a longer period of time.
This was invaluable for long over-sea shipments and the organoleptic value of the wines. For centuries, Etna wines have arrived in the glasses of consumers looking young, smelling of fresh cherries and bramble fruit, and tasting soft and supple.
Today, French and Slavonian oak have joined chestnut as an alternative wood container. Along with inert containers like stainless steele and fiberglass, the container communicates different flavors and aromas into the wine.
Fans of Etna wines have a unique opportunity to engage Etna producers as the ancient wine region continues to reinvent itself.