Nearly everything we have tasted from this humble little property, almost a kilometer above sea level on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, has blown our minds. First we brought you their chewy volcanic red. Next we secured a small allocation of their one-of-a-kind rosato, which sold out instantly. And then we learned about the olive oil. It is made from the local San Benedetto variety, planted alongside the vineyards in ashy decomposed lava stone and produced via ancestral methods. Just as you might expect from an Etna rosso, this oil is beautifully fragrant, elegantly refined on the palate, and finishes with an energetic bite.
Calabrese is the local name for Nero d’Avola in the Vittoria region of southern Sicily, but the vine does not originate from Calabria, and its clusters do not look like spicy sausages (a hypothesis I drew up while hungry). The name is, in fact, an Italianization of the old Sicilian calea (grape) and aulìsi (from Avola). Calabrese has made a second home for itself in the arid hills around Vittoria, displaying more graceful traits relative to the dense, tannic wines it produces closer to Avola. Portelli’s version features ravishing flavors of black cherry leading to supple, gentle tannins. Try it with Calabrese sausage for a deliciously redundant pairing.
Vigneti Vecchio’s vineyards are a sight to see: alberello-trained vines up to 130 years old poke out of a moonlike landscape of dusty volcanic sand that is occasionally bisected by errant solidified lava flows, called sciare. Carmelo Vecchio had a vision when he decided to bottle his first wine from these minuscule familial plots, and today that vision is bearing fruit we all can enjoy. This red’s satiny texture allows it to gloss over the palate with utter delicacy, while suggestions of smoke, white pepper, and brandied cherries linger seductively after each sip.
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