Wine Advocate 88 points - The 2009 Etna Bianco deftly balances a round, expressive core of fruit with lively minerality. This mid-weight, gracious white offers terrific balance and a long, harmonious close. A blend of predominantly Carricante with some Catarratto, Grecanico and Minella, it is an excellent introduction to the wines of the Etna. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2013. (Jun 2010)
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Wine maker notes
I first made this wine in 2005. I wanted to remove that more or less 5% of white grapes that the local vignerons used to mingle with their red ones, in order to make my Etna Rosso from red grapes alone. The white grapes were a mumbo-jumbo of local varieties: Carricante, Catarratto, Grecanico, Inzolia and Minnella. So that’s what my Etna Bianco was: a field blend of all the above, with Carricante dominating the blend with roughly 65%. And that’s what it still is. All from old vines. And, somehow, it works. A perfectly lovely wine. With the effortless uplift of a dancer, it allows me to let it go freely through life, malo included, without it ever losing its bright demeanor and lively step. Deviously drinkable, still it always clings, leaving one wondering how it delights and where do the goodies come from. In aging, the noblesse of the Etna and its remarkable terroir emerge. And the loveliness turns thoughtful and deepens, still graceful, never redundant. Fish, flesh or foul, all are fine, if very gently cooked. It loves seafood, particularly over pasta: after all, it is Sicilian.
The estate is located in the northern slopes of the volcano, with vineyards between the village of Solicchiata and the town of Randazzo, the area historically recognized as the finest in the appellation for fine red wines. The property consists of over 30 hectars, divided into 10 parcels in four crus, with a total vineyard surface of 23 hectars, which we mean to enlarge to 30-32 hectars. Except for 6 hectars recently planted, the rest are between 50 and 100 years old. One parcel, having survived phylloxera, has reached the venerable age of 130-140 years old. The soils differ very much from cru to cru, and even within the crus themselves. The same is true of the altitudes, our vineyards ranging between 600 and 1000 metres above sea level.
Four parcels lie in Calderara Sottana at an elevation of 600-700 metres. By far the rockiest cru in the appellation, in the roughest parts you can’t see the soil for the black volcanic pumice carpeting the vineyards. Two vineyards lie in Guardiola, between 800 and 900 metres altitude, on very poor soil: volcanic sand mixed with basaltic pebbles and traces of ash. Both are steeply sloped and tightly terraced, causing all vineyard work to be done manually. Two more properties lie in Feudo di Mezzo. Very old vines, also terraced, traditional alberello plantings, very tightly spaced, also worked exclusively manually. Loose deep volcanic ash roughed up by a good measure of small volcanic pebbles. In Santo Spirito we have two vineyards as well. Although adjacent to Guardiola, the soil is dramatically different: a rich deep volcanic ash so fine as to call to mind talcum powder, were it not jet black. Besides estate owned vineyards, Terre Nere has long term leases on 4 hectars and buys grapes from small local vignerons who follow our organic procedures.
All our wines are produced from local varieties, and all are D.O.C. Etna. We produce two versions of Etna Bianco. One from a field blend of Carricante, Catarratto, Inzolia and Grecanico. The other, from Carricante alone, is barrel fermented. Our remarkable Etna Rosso issues from both old and young vines of Nerello Mscalese and Nerello Cappuccio throughout our properties, and some acquired grapes as well. The very much sought after Etna Rosato, cherished for its luminous and mineral nature, is also produced from Nerello Mascalese. The very finest grapes from the oldest vines in our four crus are vinified and bottled separately after 16-20 months of wood aging. These single-vineyard bottlings represent the finest expression of the Etna appellation. Finally, a word must be spent on our Etna Rosso Prephylloxera.
Born of a tiny parcel in Calderara Sottana, whose vines survived phylloxera, it is the quintessence of Nerello Mascalese and Calderara Sottana, and by extention, the heart and soul of this volcanic terroir. Its second name – La Vigna di Don Peppino – is a tribute to the vigneron who cultivated this parcel with infinite care and untiring competence for over 70 years. If it were not for Don Peppino, this vineyard probably would no longer exist, and certainly would not be as vigorous and healthy as it is today. Though too old to work, Don Peppino still honours us with his invaluable advice in all viticultural matters.