Etna is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world. Mount Etna wines are on the rise and the world has stopped to take notice. The wines are intriguing, distinct, complex and elegant. Located on the northeastern side of Sicily, the wines of Etna are unique, not just due to the soils, but also because of the various volcanic eruptions and lava flows over the years. The wines are all the rage and for good reason.
Mount Etna’s Terroir
Mount Etna is Europe’s largest and most active volcano. Despite its tough growing conditions, grapes have been grown on Etna for centuries. It was not until the last ten years that Etna wines have exploded. There has been a huge influx of highly talented and prestigious winemakers buying land on Etna. They are taking notice of specific terroirs and demarcating contrades. On Etna, every district(contrades) has specific characteristics: elevation, soil composition, sun exposure, type and morphology of lava flows, etc. Contrades in effect are like the crus of Burgundy and Barolo.
There is nothing like growing vines on the lava flows of a living breathing volcano. Etna’s volcanic terroir offers the ideal growing conditions for grapes. The grapes are grown on terraced slopes at an elevation of 4000 feet or higher. The terraced vineyards and high altitude make for exceptional terroir. Hot sunny days, cool ocean breezes and chilly nights are ideal for growing the thick-skinned grape variety, Nerrollo Mascalese.
The star red grape variety of Mount Etna is Nerello Mascalese, and Alberto Tasca, seventh-generation winemaker at Tasca d’Almerita is making some of the most highly acclaimed single vineyard(contrada) wines from Etna. Tasca d’Almerita embodies the marriage of quality and authenticity that has put Sicilian wine on the world map and turned it into one of Italy’s most fascinating and varied wine regions.
With over 200 years of wine growing experience, the Tasca d’Almerita family founded Tascante (a portmanteau of Tasca + Etna) in 2007. In 2004 Alberto Tasca began a research project to study the territory of Mount Etna. They saw great potential in the land and purchased their first vineyards in 2007 in Contrada Sciaranuova and Pianodario. In 2015 they purchased Contrada Rampante.
Alberto went to great lengths to understand the nuances of their land, as he felt the quality of the wines was all in the details. Alberto says, “Nerello Mascalese grapes and the volcanic soils of Mount Etna interact magically, expressing the strength of the territory in a distinctive and unmistakable way.” Tenuta Tascante’s Nerrolo Mascalese is elegant, fresh, fruity, and spicy with a smooth tannic structure. Nerello Mascalese has found a home on Etna Mountain.
After a decade of research and experimentation, Alberto is ready to release his four distinct contrada wines, from the estate’s historic contrades: Contrada Pianodario, Contrada Rampante, Contrada Sciaranuova, and Sciaranuova Vechie Vigne. Each of the Contrade wines is 100% Nerello Mascalese, fermented in stainless steel and aged 12 months in Slavonian oak barrels.
These four contrada wines are beautifully elegant and fresh. These wines are complex and mineral driven with an earthy quality. They have nice concentration of fresh fruits, spice and tannic structure. The individual contrades exhibit the subtle differences of Nerello Mascalese. The wines exhibit the geologic-temporal characteristics of the diverse Etna terroir with profound clarity.
Contrada Wines of Tenuta Tascante
2016 Tenuta Tascante Contrada Rampante Etna DOC
Located at an elevation of 2430 feet between Passopisciaro and Randazzo, it is an area with large dry-wall terraces. The vineyards are characterized by formations of volcanic origin of different lithological characterization but of the same period (between 15,000 and 4,000 years).
The wine is distinctly floral on the nose with nice spice on the palate. There are notes of raspberries, blackberries, and pepper on the palate. The tannins are firm and the wine is fresh and elegant.
2016 Tenuta Tascante Contrada Pianodario Etna DOC
Contrada Pianodario is located at an average elevation of 2550 feet between the districts of Montelaguardia and Randazzo. The vineyards are characterized by volcanic formations that are between 15,000 and 4,000 years old. It is possible to hypothesize that below the soils are subsoils that are much older, possibly 40,000 years old.
Nice floral notes on the wine, with spice and tobacco. There is a distinct minerality with soft silky tannins. The wine is elegant and fresh and slightly more fuller in body than the Rampante.
2016 Tenuta Tascante Contrada Sciaranuova Etna DOC
Sciaranuova is on an elevation of 2400 feet with vineyards that are characterized by terracing with dry stone walls and chestnut groves. The vineyards are located on volcanic formations that are between 4,000 and 40,000 years old
The nose has rose, cherry, and mint notes. On the palate, there are red berries, rose, licorice, and spice. There is a presence of gorgeous sculpted tannins with a stony minerality on the finish. Elegant, fresh and structured. A beautiful wine.
2016 Tenuta Tascante Contrada Sciaranuova VV Etna DOC
This wine is made from old vines from the Sciaranuova Contrada that were planted in 1961. Beautiful notes of spice on the nose lead into notes of cherries, blackberries and black pepper on the palate. The tannins are complex yet elegant. This wine is more round and concentrated than the previous wines.