Sicily, the land of abundant sun, good food, and a rich culture infused with Byzantine and Arabic influences, continues to see growth in tourism and exports. Although Sicilian wines can be inconsistent at times, winemaking is improving at a breakneck pace with prices remaining generally reasonable.
The Etna DOC — located in eastern Sicily on the slopes of the Etna volcano — is one of Sicily’s top denominations.
The Etna DOC zone is one of the premier areas (along with the Faro DOC) for the nerello mascalese red grape. The Etna DOC is located in eastern Sicily on the high elevation (1000+ meters) slopes of the Etna volcano; wines are derived from a minimum of 80% of the variety.
Genetically connected to frappato, gaglioppo and sangiovese, thin-skinned, late-ripening nerello mascalese offers a more elegant, reserved style of Sicilian red. Wines are light colored with approachable ripe red fruit flavors, pleasant spice and soft tannins. Highly expressive of terroir, they present a trademark mineral earthiness, likely reflecting the volcanic soils around Mount Etna in which the grapes are grown. Wines come at attractive price points and are certainly worth trying, particularly if you are a fan of northern Piedmont’s lighter nebbiolos, Cru Beaujolais or the Loire Valley’s cabernet francs.
While possible best known its gentle nerello mascalese reds, the Etna DOC is also the home of tasty whites based primarily on a blend of the indigenous carricante and catarratto grape varieties.
Bottles marked as standard Etna bianco contain a minimum of 60% carricante; those marked as superiore have a minimum of 80% carricante. Given thick-skinned, late-ripening carricante’s leading position in the blend, they are delicate wines that display high levels of acidity, making them ideal an partner for simply prepared seafood. They reveal flavors of green apple, orange, lemon, honey and mineral, sometimes with anise and saline notes.
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