For those that think of the wine growing region of Mount Etna has a warm climate, will be in for shock when you visit. High altitudes, an active volcano and snow falls make Etna one of the worlds most intriguing wine regions.
I love Etna and it’s wines. These photo’s from the winery we represent, Passopisciaro were taken over the weekend and shows the level of snow fall that can happen on Etna.
Well it is crazy to think that we have been in Italy for 48 hours and already seem like we have done so much. Today was the first day of Vinitaly and it was great to catch up with the wineries that we love to represent in Australia.
One of the many highlights from today was trying the 2010 Brunello from Biondi Santi. The first shipment of this wine (which has been fully allocated) will arrive in Australia in a couple of the weeks and it was great to try this wine. It is one of the most complete Biondi Santi Brunello’s I have ever tried at such a young age. The winery has sold it’s entire production of BdM in a month of it being in the market and I am glad that we secured a second large allocation of this wine for June shipment to Australia via Mondo Imports.
Another highlight was trying the 2012 Cru’s and standard 2013 Etna Rosso from Passopsiciaro. I feel like the very essence of Mondo Imports is illustrated through these wines. Indigenous wines that show the territory they are grown in (Etna) and each vintage showcases the difference of the season. We should also announce in the next month or so another one of Italy’s best wineries will be joining our portfolio. We tried the wines again today and they are standouts. More in this soon!
After a big day, a sprtiz in Piazza Erbe is on the cards then a glass of vino at Bottega Vini.
Whilst it has been great to be away, it has also been hard to not be onsite watching the final pieces of our new wine store being built. I have been getting virtual updates most days which has been great and when I return at the end of the week, I assume we will almost be ready to close our old site and trade out of our new space.
When you consider that the retail side of our business, Boccaccio Cellars has been running for 51 years and since 1984, it has operated out of the space we will soon leave, then it shows what a big change and step forward for this business to be able to present some of the greatest ITalian wines in the world, in a space that does these wines justice.
For those that live near Boccaccio, we will kick off our regular tasting/masterclasses on Sunday the 9th of November from 11-1pm looking at some of the best producers from Mount Etna. Note all tastings on Sunday are free and open to the public.
The full schedule of Sunday tastings for November are as follows:
NOVEMBER FREE TASTING SCHEDULE – EVERY SUNDAY FROM 11AM-1PM AT THE NEW BOCCACCIO CELLARS 1046-1050 BURKE ROAD, BALWYN, VICTORIA 3103 (40 METRES DOWN THE ROAD FROM OUR EXISTING STORE)
SUNDAY 9TH OF NOVEMBER 11AM-1PM: THE MYSTERY AND BEAUTY OF MOUNT ETNA, ITALY
A DETAILED LOOK AT THE BEST PRODUCERS FROM THIS REGION. FEATURING PASSOPISCIARO, BENANTI, PIETRADOLCE & GIROLAMO RUSSO
SUNDAY 16TH OF NOVEMBER 11AM-1PM: NEW RELEASE MOUNT MARY WINES WITH MOUNT MARY WINEMAKER SAM MIDDLETON.
2012 WAS A VINTAGE THAT SAW THE STARS ALIGN AT MOUNT MARY, THE MOST ICONIC WINERY IN THE YARRA VALLEY. ENJOY CHATTING TO SAM AND WORKING YOUR WAY THROUGH THIS SET OF GREAT RELEASES.
SUNDAY 23RD OF NOVEMBER 11AM-1PM: 2014 VINTAGE RIESLINGS – A LOOK AT THE BEST.
WE HAVE HEARD GREAT THINGS ABOUT 2014 RIESLING. LET’S LINE THEM UP AND SEE WHAT THE VINTAGE HAS TO OFFER
SUNDAY 30TH OF NOVEMBER 11AM-1PM: YARRA VALLEY YOUNG GUNS – FEATURING THE NEW RELEASES FROM TIMO MAYER, THE WANDERER, GEMBROOK HILL AND HODDLES CREEK ESTATE.
TIMO MAYER, ANDREW MARKS AND FRANCO D’ANNA REPRESENT A SNAPSHOT INTO THE ‘FUTURE’ OF THE YARRA VALLEY. COME AND MEET THE MAKERS AND TRY THEIR LATEST SET OF WINES INCLUDING THE 2013 HODDLES CREEK ESTATE 1ER PINOT NOIR, CHARDONNAY AND PINTO BLANC WHICH ARE RELEASED 1ST OF DECEMBER.
Mount Etna: a place that makes magical and mythical wines that convey this in the structure and taste of their wines. They are light in colour and strong in flavour and tannin. They are some of the most complex wines I have tried from any grape variety. The fact that the once obscure and unknown grape variety, Nerello Mascalese is being such amazing wines sums up Etna in so many ways.
It was this beauty that drew me to the wines of Passopisciaro all those years ago. Back then, only one or two producers from Etna made their way to Australia which meant that I basically had the pick of the mountain, to decide which winery to import to Australia.
Back then I was tossing up between Graci and Passopisciaro and decided to go with my heart and start with Passopisciaro. Well fast forward and the wines have found a strong following by wine lovers all around Australia.
This week, the standard 2011 Etna Rosso (the single cru’s should arrive in the first week of July) was reviewed by Gary Walsh on The Wine Front and within 24 hours our whole allocation was sold.
Another shipment of the 2011 Etna Rosso will arrive along with the Cru’s in the first week of July and be available via @mondoimports Together with these wines and the wines of Lamoresca, we think we have captured the magic of Etna and Sicily with these amazing wines. Forza Passopisciaro. Forza Etna. Forza Sicily.
Last month I spent close to a month in Southern Italy on vacation. No work, just plenty of time relaxing with my family, drinking and eating the best the south has to offer. If we focus on the wines we drank during the trip, there was one constant: it was the wines we drank were grown on volcanic soils. It seems on every horizon, there was the glimmer of a volcano in the distance.
No more was this obvious than in Sicily. I love Sicily. I love the scenery. I love the food. I especially love the wine. When it comes to wine in Sicily, Etna reigns supreme. However it was not that long ago that the wines of Etna were not considered to be one of the finest in Italy. In fact, in regards to quality wines from Sicily, Etna barely got a run in. First it was Nero d’Avola and then it seems international varieties were seen to be one of the ‘bright’ stars of Sicily.
Well fast forward to today and it is great to see the spot firmly placed on Mount Etna and specifically Nerello Mascalese. This ancient variety is capable of producing magical wines that are now seen to rival Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. In fact, in great years like 2010, Nerello Mascalese has ethereal complexity mixed with power that makes the much published ‘Burgundy meets Barolo’ the perfect descriptor of this amazing grape variety.
The thing about Etna is that it so diverse. Depending on the age of the vine, the lava flow that it is grown on, the altitude and the growing season, Etna can be vastly different. Over the next twenty years, we are going to see some amazing wines out of Etna as each producer better understands what they are playing with. Like Etna erupting those many thousand years ago for the first time 170,000 years ago, we are going to see the birth of one of Italy’s truly great wine regions that will vie with Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello in the very near future.
This week I have working on a newsletter on the wines of Sicily. Looking back at my photo’s made me remember just how much I loved Sicily. What an amazing place. Next year I will return their in June with my family and I cannot wait.
For those who have been to Italy but not to Sicily, one tip: go. It is an experience that you will never forget. The island is such a vibrant mix of culture and architecture and it is an obvious reminder that not that long ago, Italy was a mix of different cultures with Sicily being the most different.
The photo above was taken on my trip to Sicily in 2011 and the quality of the fruit and vegetables grown on volcanic soils beneath Mount Etna was the best I have ever eaten. When matched with the amazing quality and array of wines produced from this amazing island, it is easy to see why so many people fall in love with Sicily.
Like these mix of cultures, the wines that they grow on Sicily are all quite different. From the rich and full flavours of Nero d’Avola, to the almost Burgundian Nerello Mascalese grown on Mount Etna, their wines showcase just how different soils, alititudes and of course grape varities can be on this amazing Island.
Every year I head back to Italy and on each visit, I either spend my time solely in the north or south of Italy. This year I visited Italy in March (where I spent three weeks in the north of Italy) and June (where I spent two weeks in the south of Italy) and for me personally, I do not have a preference and find both the north and south captivating.
When I think of the wines of Sicily my mind always heads straight to Nero d’Avola which has been for centuries been seen as the workhouse of the region. this rich, robust red is full bodied yet light on it’s feet. Due to the volcanic soil that it is grown on, it has amazing minerality and complexity that makes it fantastic drinking for under $20 a bottle. If you want to get serious about Sicilian wine, then I you need to head to Mount Etna and the amazing old vine Nerello Mascalese grown at high altitude and on differing lava flows.
In 2000 Andrea Franchetti decided to restore an old farm and cellars on the higher slopes of mount Etna. The winery which later was to initiate the renaissance of viticulture on the mountain and an international discovery of the wines of Etna sits at about a thousand meters of altitude above the small wine town of Passopisciaro in the district of Castiglione di Sicilia, on the north slope of the volcano. The wine “Passopisciaro” was a rendering of the grape that is unique and ever-present on Mount Etna, Nerello Mascalese, a botanical ancestor of Pinot Noir.
This was the first modern bottling of Nerello wine. Up until recently, wines from Etna were sold in bulk. In 2005 Franchetti starts making a striking red, named after the vintner, made with Petit Verdot and Cesanese d’Affile, loaded with sweet spices, cassis and plum that are woven together with profound elegance. The following year Guardiola came along, 100% Chardonnay planted at a 1000 mt a.s.l., a fresh, mineral and aromatic white wine. In 2008, Franchetti started making single-vineyard bottlings from areas on different altitudes, where there had been some classic old feudal properties renown for their wines. The name of these “Contradas” are: Chiappemacine, Porcaria, Sciaranuova, Rampante, growing respectively at 550 mt, 650, 850 and 1000 mt. Andrea Franchetti had realized immediately that once the grapes reached the cellar, they produced different wines depending on the district from which they came from. The Contradas each come from vineyards of different ages and are each on a lava flow with different minerals, grain size and altitudes: this led him to vinify each district separately, representing the different taste of mount Etna’s ancient crus.
The wines of Mount Etna and especially those of Passopisciaro are unique in so many way: soil, climate, vineyard age and altitude all work together in making wines that cannot be replicated anywhere in the world.
This week we received our allocation of the 2009 Passopisciaro Etna Rosso and in June we will receive the 2009 single cru ‘s. These are not wines for the faint hearted and it is a style that will either captivate you or you will turn your back on and decide Etna is not for you.
People often ask what Nerello Mascalese tastes like? My answer is a mix between Burgundy and Barolo. It has the perfume and fragrance of Burgundy but the power and tannins of Barolo.
Yesterday morning I opened a bottle of the 09 Passopisciaro, threw it in the decanter and left it to sit during the day. Last night when I came back to it, it was in the groove: ethereal, powerful and full of personality.
This wine and many like it from Calabria, Basilicata, Campania and Puglia is the reason why I think Southern Italy will be at the forefront of the Italian wine scene in the next ten years. Grape varieties like Nerello Mascalese (and there are many more like it) are showing the world just how special these indigenous grape varieties can be.
Anthony D'Anna: Italian wine importer and merchant in Australia