Tag Archives: Italian wines

Sicilian Wines, With Exception

There are tastings that prompt you to remember where you’re tasting – an armchair travel of sorts, when you think of the terroir within a wine region. Although Sicily has a perfect wine-making climate and a history of wine dating back to 4,000 B.C., I found my latest tasting of six bottles of Tenuta di Fessina to be challenging, to say the least. The whites, a 2017 Etna Bianco ($25) made with 90% Carricante, 10% Catarratto and Minella, and a 2017 A’Puddara ($65) made with 100% Carricante proved interesting to sip. The Carricante grape is late harvested, which would explain the intense minerality and candied notes.

I’ve never been to Sicily, so I kept an open mind to these wines and the differences a terroir can make. This is a terroir of volcanic soil, so I was excited to try the wines, but once I tasted a few bottles, I became even more eager for a visit to explore this wine region as it relates to other wine regions of Italy. What I do know — Sicily is where the highest active volcano in Europe sits, and in the village of Roviteelo, on the northeastern side of Mount Etna, are where the vineyards of Tenuta di Fessina produce their grapes.

When I brought a few bottles over a friend’s house, three of us tried the 2017 Laeneo ($42) made with 100% Nerello Cappuccio grapes. We had the same reaction. “Sour cherries!” We were not fans. So, I opened a 2016 Erse Rosso ($25), made with only 8% of Nerello Cappuccio – 90% Nerello Mascalese and 2% Minnella & Carricante. This wine was a bit better, but those sour cherries still seemed to dominate our palates. Although these grapes are known for their sour cherry flavors, we were all disappointed and I had only wished I’d brought the bottle of 2012 Il Musmeci Rosso, made with 100% Nerello Mascalese, a burst of dried cherry fruit with a bit of tar, mint and nutmeg notes.

My conclusion is that when aged, these Sicilian wines are much more palatable. The 2012 Il Musmeci Rosso presented an expression of Sicily that should make Tenuta di Fessina and all Sicilians proud. I read that the Nerello Mascalese is reminiscent of pinot noir, and I would have to say yes, but only a little. I will say that this 2012 Il Musmeci Rosso was my favorite of the half dozen bottles. My next favorite bottle was a 2018 Erse Rosé ($25) made with that same Nerello Mascalese, but only 50%; the other half is Nerello Cappuccio, which clearly tastes better when blended as a rosé.

Charlene Peters is a wine writer living in Napa Valley. She can be reached by email: SipTripper@gmail.com



A ‘lot’ (57) of Tuscan gold

The expression of a destination once visited comes alive with a sniff and sip. For me, a trip to Tuscany was revisited when I opened a bottle of 90+ Rosso Toscana Sangiovese Merlot, Lot 57, 2012.

A bottle of 90+ brings about mixed emotions to those in the wine industry. While we like to attain bottles of premium wines otherwise affordable only to the upper class, 90+ offers the opportunity to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak.

If you aren’t sure what 90+ labels are about, here’s what I found out through the grapevine: When 90-plus rated wines don’t sell out with a private label, there is opportunity to sell unlabeled bottles to consumers who can’t pay a lot for those premium wines, but want to sip them nonetheless. Slap on a 90+ label, document the grapes (in this case, Sangiovese and Merlot), the wine region (Rosso Toscana), country (Italy) and the year (2012). The most important factor beyond the grapes and region is the lot number (Lot 57) so that if you enjoy the wine, you can get another bottle from that same lot. If you get a different lot, it will be a different wine from another winemaker, but in the same region.

Overage is put to good use via 90+, and consumers will never be able to know the winery or winemaker behind the bottle, but you will know a good wine when you taste it, and this Rosso Toscana Lot 57 is quintessential Tuscan wine grown from perhaps the greatest wine region in Italy…Chianti and its super Tuscan blends.

Central Italy’s history of wine dates back to the 8th century, B.C., with the Etruscan settlements. This is one situation where it’s a good thing that history repeats itself. I love Rosso Toscana because it is not as robust as a cabernet sauvignon, so drinkable alone. But you will crave Italian food once you have a taste.

Lot 57 Ross Toscana Reserve 2012 sells for approximately $15 a bottle…not much compared to what the true label might sell for, given the grapes hail from the home of Sangiovese.