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This young, family-run estate high on the northern slopes of Mount Etna has just bottled its first vintage from minuscule plots of very old vines. Planted in 1930, this single-vineyard Nerello Mascalese—co-planted and co-fermented with a smattering of other indigenous varieties—is a statement in power and finesse from Europe’s most active volcano. Recalling smoky ash, white pepper, and brandied cherries, it makes me crave a wood-fired pizza with a rich tomato sauce, hunks of fennel sausage, and crispy bits of singed, blackened crust. The suave mouthfeel and grippy finale lend themselves to pairings with a number of more nuanced dishes as well.
Carmelo Vecchio and his wife, Rosa La Guzza, did not come from afar to make wine on Etna: they are true locals, raised in the heart of the vineyards. Carmelo began working at the nearby Passopisciaro winery at a young age, and after fifteen years of hands-on experience, the time came to strike out on his own. From barely one hectare of vines up to 130 years old inherited from Rosa’s family, the couple took matters into their own hands: sustainable farming by hand, with the goal of achieving an elegant balance in the grapes; micro-vinifications in the tiny cellar beneath their home, with respect for tradition and terroir; and aging the wines in used barrels before bottling without fining or filtration.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
Inspiring Thirst, page 312