At risk of offending a learned audience, by way of introduction for the uninitiated: although hailing from scorching Sicily, these are high-altitude, cool-climate wines grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, made mostly from the Nerello Mascalese grape that to my knowledge doesn’t do much anywhere else. They (at least the ones I like) have a clear, fresh red fruit profile that should please regular patrons of pinot noir and nebbiolo, particularly if you don’t mind trading a hint of earthiness there for an extra bit of sweetness here. 2014 was hailed as *the* watershed vintage for the region, at least until 2016 came along.
2014 Passopisciaro Contrada Santo Spirito Etna Rosso ‘Animardente’. Darker and more opaque than the others. Nose dusty, hint of dark fruit. More dark fruit and a floral note in the mouth. Broadening on the palate after extended time in the glass. Quite different from the others.
2014 Pietradolce ‘Archineri’ Etna Rosso. A simple but beautiful label I think. Fresh berries, smoked meat. Nice clean red fruit. Tannins just a little bit sratchy. Youthful but I tend to think drinking over the near term is best – you want that great fruit.
2014 Tenuta delle Terre Nere ‘Santo Spirito’ Etna Rosso. From the important estate founded by prominent US wine importer Marc de Grazia, one of the pioneers of the renaissance that the Etna wine scene is undergoing, this wine is from the same vineyard area (Contrada) as the Passopisciaro, which Terre Nere interestingly refers to as a Premier Cru (above the Etna Rosso DOC, but below four Grand Crus). Whether or not one agrees on the details, I think you have to applaud this sort of effort at vineyard classification in regions that have no such structure — meaning almost everywhere — whenver people have the nerve to try it. Tonight this has the best fruit of the flight, really nice lifted mid-palate. Some barrique sweetness is evident on the palate, but not obtrusive. Finer tannins than the Pietradolce, and certainly the best wine of the three.
None of these is aromatic enough to really curl my toes but they are all nice wines. Also, they are still well structured but I think the fruit is starting to beat a retreat, leading me to wonder whether further aging is a good idea.