Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mount Etna Wines From Tenuta di Fessina Erupt With Flavor

Mount Etna wines from Sicily's Tenuta di FessinaSicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. It has a winemaking history that dates to 4000 BC and the highest active volcano in Europe.

A Peak Wine Experience

Italy’s island of Sicily has been home to some of the most famous ancient civilizations. Greeks established methodical grape growing practices in the 8th century BC. The Phoenicians and Romans both traded wines from the island, leading to the development and fame of Sicilian wines.

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Sicily is notable not only for its wine and beauty, but for the highest active volcano on the continent. Mount Etna soars to a height of 11,000 feet and brings unique flavors and styles to the grapes grown on its mountainsides.

We’ve been fans of mountain wines for a long time (although not back to the ancient Greeks!). Excellent drainage, wide temperature swings and brisk breezes form conditions that produce flavorful grapes. Add volcanic soil to the mix and your have unique wines capable of sending wine lovers into orbit.

IMG_20200423_201432We were pleased to have a chance to sample wines from Tenuta di Fessina, a winery that harnesses the power of the volcano in their wines. It is located on the northeastern side of Mount Etna and has vineyards planted to indigenous Sicilian varieties on different sides of the mountain.

Climbing Up The Mountain

Ash, smoke and dust from Mount Etna give the region its distinctive volcanic soil, with lava, basalt, tuff, and ash. Tenuta di Fessina is nestled between two ancient lava flows, creating a unique micro climate.

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Tenuta di Fessina has a wide range of wines. The entry into their wines is the Erse line. Named for the Greek goddess of dew, these Etna DOC wines include Bianco, Rosato and Rosso. The price point for these wines is $24.99.

We’ve had the Erse Bianco before and loved it. The 2017 vintage is 90% Carricante, 10% Catarratto and Minnella. For anyone needing an introduction to Etna wines, this is a good place to start. The minerality coupled with fresh acidity and a dash of herbs and salinity give it a wholly unique flavor.

The 2018 Rosato is a savory rosé with a bit more body than the ubiquitous Provence rosé. It is made with Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio and teases with a nice complexity. The 2016 Rosso mixes the red varieties of Nerello Mascalese (90%) and Nerello Cappuccio (8%) with a dash of white grapes Minnella and Carricante.

Dance On A Volcano

The 2017 A’Puddara is one of the most alluring white wines I’ve had in a long time. It is named as a reference to Ovid, the Roman poet. This is a poetic wine made with 100% Carricante. Carricante is required in all Etna DOC Bianco wines and is thought to have grown on the slopes of Mount Etna for more than 1,000 years.

IMG_20200409_183122On the nose there is lemon zest and herbal notes. On the palate it is a well structured wine with a creamy texture gained through aging on the lees for up to eight months. There are some soft buttery notes as well as tropical fruit. The SRP is $66 for this special white wine.

Laeneo is a ruby red wine made with 100% Nerello Cappuccio. It is named for the bacchanal gatherings in honor of Dionysus in ancient Athens. It’s very appropriate for this is a joyous affair with savory flavors of sour cherry, black pepper and plums. It’s an elegant wine that’s fermented in stainless steel. Retail is $42.

The Nerello Mascalese grapes for the 2012 Il Musmeci Rosso come from a vineyard more than 80 years old. It’s located 2,100 feet above sea level. A ridge surrounding the vineyard allows the grapes to ripen fully and slowly. The wait is certainly worth it.

This is a complex sip that leans toward finesse rather than firepower. There is an underlayer of tobacco and mint with ripe red fruit floating on top. The texture is silk and satin. It is aged 10 to 12 months in small French barrels before an additional six to eight months in large oak barrels. There is four more years of bottle aging before it is released. The Il Musmeci is an Etna Rosso DOC Riserva wine and is considered the Tenuta di Fessina “cru” wine.

Beautiful and unique wines flow from Mount Etna and Tenuta di Fessina.

Full disclosure: These wines were received as a marketing sample.

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