Great Value Wines: 6 Etna Rossos for Less Than $50
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Nebbiolo and pinot noir are among the most delicate grapes in the world, producing world-class wines with power and finesse. If you have ever thought about an alternative that shows the beauty of both these grapes, Etna Rosso wines should be top of your list.
The captivating Etna Rosso has many stories to account from the glass (great for marketing!). The indigenous high-quality Nerello Mascalese sometimes blended with Nerello Cappuccio is red-fruited wine with earthy accents and tight structure. The extreme growing environment in Mount Etna where you find the dark, lava-rich volcanic soil in the elevated vineyards (some above 1,000m) provides freshness and savory components to the wine, and believe it or not, it does remind you of the ash-like minerality from the volcanic soil the moment you dig your nose into your glass. And the extremely old and ungrafted vines, some ancient enough to be called pre-phylloxera vines, give the wine real essence and depth without building up too much heft.
The best result is a wine that combines the racy fruit and etherealness of pinot and the savoriness and structure of nebbiolo. It also sometimes reminds me of a nice Chianti or sangiovese. Despite the essential concentration, Etna Rosso is rarely a deep and heavy wine, even from very old vines. Be aware if some producers make saturated and hefty Etna Rosso, they might have added some Nero d’ Avola.
As much as we love to sip and contemplate over some rare pre–phylloxera wines like La Vigna di Don Peppino from Terre Nere and Vigna Barbagalli from Pietradolce, there are still plenty of Etna Rossos under $50 that deliver complexity, mineral tension, structure and finesse.
Here we have selected six great buys that we tasted from the recent vintages of 2015 and 2016 that are opening up now. The list of good producers goes far beyond this list however. I recommend pouring a small glass and enjoying it slowly, with or without food. After all, a good Etna Rosso can be very intellectual and deserves to be appreciated in its own right.