Cristian Liistro with two bottles of Etna wines

Etna wines – Etna rosso from ‘Tenuta delle Terre Nere’

This was another highlight from the Italian and Spanish wine tasting by Justerini and Brooks. After tasting the first couple of Etna wines ‘Terre Nere’ – their white, rose, and entry level red, poured by a lovely J&B employee, I just had to find out more about these beautiful wines. I was pointed in the direction of Cristian Liistro, marketing director for ‘Tenuta Delle Terre Nere‘ who was busy pouring and describing wines to some fellow wine-lovers. I waited patiently – not realising that I was about to be blown away by some of the most impressive wines I had ever tasted.

When I managed to attract Cristian’s attention, I explained that I had just tasted their entry level ‘Etna Rosso’ which was an excellent example of a fresh, fruity aromatic red, very much reminiscent of a good quality Pinot Noir. Cristian gave me a smile and explained that their red wines were made with the local Nerello Mascalese. I was pleased to also hear that he agreed with my comparison with the noble Burgundian grape, inviting me to taste their ‘Feudo di Mezzo’ 2015 – a notable step up in quality from their entry level – grown from a single vineyard at 650 metres altitude, on volcanic ash and basalt.

This was a true revelation – a combination of cherry, red plum, raspberry and notes of cedar wood and spice, all wrapped up in lusciously soft tannins and with good levels of acidity. This was a wine that was perfectly ready to drink now, but would also age beautifully for ten, fifteen years. This wine possessed the elegance of a top quality Burgundy with a structure that belied its youth. I knew I was in for a real treat.

The next wine I tasted was the ‘Santo Spirito’ grown on rich volcanic ash – vinified and matured in exactly the same way as ‘Feudo di Mezzo’ and ‘Guardiola’ (their third ‘premier cru’). ‘Santo Spirito’ 2015 presented with more floral notes to complement the prominent red fruit aromas and flavour, with a gentle tannic structure. And finally, ‘Guardiola’ from less fertile soil higher up the mountain. While this wine also delivered on fresh red fruit flavours, it came across as somewhat more astringent with deeper, darker tannins.

So given such a variety of Etna wines which ‘Etna Rosso’ did I prefer? Tough choice, but ultimately, for drinking now the ‘Feudo di Mezzo’ edges it ahead of Santo Spirito. Guardiola needs some more time for those heftier tannins to soften and for the wine to properly open up. But all are worthy of being referred to as ‘premier crus’ as Cristian and his colleagues at Tenuta Delle Terre Nere refer to these wines – in a conscious nod to the Burgundian tradition of producing fine wines from individual plots of land. And if these were the ‘premier crus’, what about the ‘grand crus’? Well, for Tenuta Delle Terre Nere these are their ‘Calderara Sottana’ and ‘San Lorenzo’ as well as their ‘Prephylloxera’, which as the name implies derives from old vines that grow on their original rootstock – survivors of the destructive phylloxera that destroyed so many ‘old world vines’. The latter is a wine of great elegance – perfectly balanced between subtlety and complexity. Yet, given the price tag that accompanies such a special wine, I think I’ll stick with ‘Feudo di Mezzo’.

Thank you Cristian! Alla prossima volta!!!!

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