Peak Etna Value: Barone Di Villagrande Rosso

By Christopher Matthews

Of the many favorable spots to grow grapes on Sicily, the most compelling district for me is the Etna DOC, in the shadow of Europe’s tallest — and very active — volcano. Endowed with mineral-rich volcanic soils, intense sunlight and cooling sea breezes and altitudes, the cinematic foothills of Etna produce some stunningly good wines from mostly local varieties, namely Nerello Mascalese (red) and Carricante (white).

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Mt. Etna in the distance

Recently, at Ester Wine and Spirits in uptown Kingston, NY (which, BTW, has a nicely edited selection), I was drawn to an attractively labeled Etna Rosso that I had never tried before, from Barone Di Villagrande. When I brought it to the register for purchase, the wine dude on duty said: “Oh my god, this wine is so good.” My expectations rose…

While Barone Di Villagrande was new to me, its land and vineyards in the shadow of Etna have been “indissolubly tied to the Nicolosi family” since the 18th century. So, not a new kid on the block. The website veers more to the poetic and visual, rather than technical information on the wines, however, but I was able to ascertain that they use the native grapes, like Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, in the Rosso. And the vineyards, at an altitude of around 2,100 feet above the Mediterranean, form an amphitheater in the volcanic hillside. The unique Etna terroir elements look to be present…

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The 2014 Rosso makes an immediate impression, with an intense nose of violets and high-tone herbal notes, underpinned by dark berry character — very pretty. On the palate, it is velvety with smooth tannins, attractive wild berry fruit, clear structure and energy, finishing long, clean and minerally. A wine of elegance and purity, which, at $23 retail, still rates as a value, and would be a tremendous asset at the table.

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You know where its coming from…

Salute!

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