John Szabo’s Buyer’s Guide: Sicily En Primeur News & New Releases from Etna and the Rest of Sicily

By John Szabo MS

In this report: News from Sicily and a wealth of recommendations from the island’s latest wine releases, with a focus on Mt. Etna.

Etna Wineries Reviewed & Recommended (all 90+ point wines):

Girolamo Russo, Passopisciaro, Tenute delle Terre Nere, Graci, Planeta, Tascante, Pietradolce, Tenuta Bosco, Palmento Costanzo, Eduardo Torres Acosta, Calcagno, Vigneti Vecchio, Tornatore, Mecori, Benanti, Tore Mora, Massimo Lentsch, Vivera, Barone di Villagrande

Rest of Sicily Wineries Reviewed & Recommended (all 90+ point wines):

I Palari, Casematte, Feudo Montoni, COS, Tenuta di Castellaro, Donnafugata, Tasca d’Almerita, Florio, Planeta

Jump to Tasting Notes:

Etna Rosso
Etna Bianco & Rosato
The Rest of Sicily – Sparkling, Fortified, and Sweet
The Rest of Sicily – White & Rosato
The Rest of Sicily – Rosso

Sicily En Primeur

I spent a week in Sicily in May this year for the event known as Sicilia en Primeur, a program created by the promotional association Assovini Sicilia. First launched in 2004, this 19th edition was held in the city of Taormina and the Horticultural Park Radicepura near Catania. Assovini itself was founded in 1998 by Sicilian heavyweights Diego Planeta, Giacomo Rallo, and Lucio Tasca d’Almerita.

With over 800 recently released wines on display from 69 participating wineries this year, Sicily en Primeur is just about the most comprehensive look you can get at the latest wines from Sicily. And considering that over 80% of these wineries export to Canada, many will be appearing on our shelves as well.

I also added on a few personal days before the event to get re-acquainted with the wines of Mount Etna, visiting over a dozen wineries, and also visited wineries on the Lipari Islands and a few more on Etna as part of the official press tours during Sicily en Primeur, so, in brief, it was a comprehensive tour.

This report and buyers’ guide is the result.

Sicily is an attractive region for so many reasons. A kaleidoscope of cultures has passed through or ruled this land over millennia, contributing to cultural, architectural and culinary diversity. And indeed, the cuisine is one of the most varied and delicious in Italy, which is saying a lot, born of the wealth of products reared and grown on and around this island, the largest in the Mediterranean Sea (26,000 square kilometers). Diversity is born of its multiplicity of landscapes, climates and soils from lavas to limestone, clays to tuffs, all distilled through various cultural lenses.

The benign climate gives farmers a distinct advantage over their northern counterparts, with a high, and growing percentage of organic and sustainable products.

Wine, too, is of course part of this richness, more varied than one might think from a surface glance. No fewer than 14 native grape varieties are commonly grown, such as whites Catarratto, Insolia, Grecanico, Zibibbo (Moscato) Malvasia di Lipari, and reds Frappato, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, and Perricone. And I didn’t even mention the most important, Grillo and Carricante, and Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese, nor any of the international varieties, well represented on the island, such as Chardonnay, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.

And looking forward to more diversity, almost one-third of Sicilian wineries have started researching and experimenting with “relic” varieties that until a few decades had all but died out. Some 20 varieties are currently under investigation, including such oddities as Vitrarolo, Lucignola and Minnella Bianca. There is much to look forward to.

This research ties into a notable recent general trend toward differentiating Sicily’s wine offering and putting forward unique products. 30 years ago, it seemed that Sicily was content to position itself as the “New World” of Italy and Europe, planting international grapes and producing varietal wines at competitive prices, going head-to-head with Australia, California, and Chile. And given the relative ease of growing grapes in this proverbial Mediterranean climate, the region enjoyed some success in this arena to be sure.

But the buzz now is all around native grapes and unique flavour profiles, led, it has to be said, by the meteoric (figurative) rise of the wines of Mt. Etna since the turn of the century and its utterly singular whites, from mainly carricante, and nerello mascalese-based reds. There are many, will be many more sophisticated expressions of indigenous Sicilian varities to come. And meanwhile, we’re left with the most successful early experiments that stood the test of time and market pressure; Planeta’s excellent Chardonnay from Menfi and Andrea Franchetti’s (Passopisciaro’s) remarkable petit verdot-cesanese red blend from Mt. Etna come to mind.

And also keeping up with the times, Sicilian growers are pushing hard on the environmental front, introducing a number of innovative programmes to reduce, reduce and recycle. Many of these initiatives have been introduced by the Fondazione SOStain Sicilia, a foundation set up for the sustainable development of Sicilian viticulture and winemaking. Among the foundation’s ongoing research is a project produce a lightweight bottle from start to finish in Sicily, made from at least 95% recycled glass sourced from waste collection. Another project in collaboration with Amorim Cork Italia aims to give a second life to corks, reborn as “design objects”, to promote recycling and the circular economy. A part of the money from the sale of the corks will go to non-profits Sicily.

It’s a fine time to explore Sicilian wines. Starting with the exceptional wines of Etna, here’s a list of top scoring wines to start with.

Buyers’ Guide: Sicily en Primeur

Etna Rosso

98 Girolamo Russo San Lorenzo Piano delle Colombe Etna Rosso 2021
A special parcel within the San Lorenzo contrada aged an extra year before release. The vineyard features a unique combination of sand and pumice and lighter volcanic rocks from a more explosive eruption and seems to yield this superior wine year after year. It’s aged in both tonneaux and a few barriques, but not new. Wood is noted on the nose, the only cru from Russo to express it, though there’s more than enough density and depth of fruit to envision future harmony. 2020 yielded relatively softer wines than 2019, lighter and more spicy-herbal in this case. The palate is already quite silky, with lovely, supple, fleshy texture, broad, round, really refined and highly satisfying. Terrific length. A wine of fabulous finesse.

97 Passopisciaro Franchetti Rosso 2017
Andrea Franchetti’s head-turning, non indigenous blend of 60% petit verdot and 40% cesanese, may not be classic Etna, but wine quality is beyond reproach. The 2017 has a spectacular nose, dark, concentrated, spicy, full of dark fruit, beautifully balanced. The palate offers such depth and length, complexity and genuine palate presence. I would never have guessed this combination would work, but wow, this is truly superb wine. Drink or continue to hold into the ’30s.

96 Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Dagala di Bocca d’Orzo Grande Terroir Ellittico 2021
A tiny vineyard surrounded by the lava flow of 1981; Dagala: “island saved by God”, Bocca d’Orzo is the name of the cru. Ellittico – a geologic era. Approximately 60,000 years ago. 1800 bottles made. A monopole of Terre Nere, considered a grand cru internally. Really terrific perfume here, quite magic, damson plum, black cherry, gently desiccated, slightly pruney. The palate is intensely concentrated, with billowing, abundant tannins, densely packed and ripe. Length is superb. Best from 2025

96 Girolamo Russo San Lorenzo Etna Rosso 2021
Tight and reductive on the nose, this is the least aromatically giving of Russo’s crus in 2021, always a wine of significant depth and structure that takes several years to unwind. Tannins are tight, dense and compact, firmed up further by lively acids. Length and depth are superb. Drink after 2026, or cellar until the late ’30s without concern. Superb length. Aged mainly in large botti.

95 Graci Etna Rosso Arcuría Sopra Il Pozzo 2018
From the southwest corner of Graci’s Arcuría parcel, first bottled separately in 2012 and given a little more wood contact, or so it seems relative to the ‘regular’ Arcuría, the Sopra Il Pozzo (“above the well”) 2018 is a polished and spicy, satisfying and round, powerful wine even in the cooler and abundant 2018 vintage. Tannins are silky-firm, voluminous but refined, while the palate shows genuine depth and power without slipping into excess. Terrific length. Drink or hold into the early ’30s.

95 Pietradolce Etna Rosso Rampante 2019
95 year-old alberello vines, vinified in concrete, aged 14 months in 700l barrels, 10% used. An Etna Rosso of pure perfume, elegance and finesse, though also harboring significant structure, firm, linear, vertical and savoury underneath, a wine simmering with power and density yet revealing little for now. It’s not as flashy as the Feudo do Mezzo or Archineri, but will surely age magnificently and outlive both. The mineral signature is strong and the potential exceptional. Best from 2026. The best of the Pietradolce range in this vintage.

95 Tenuta Bosco Vico Etna Rosso 2016
100% cappuccio. From Santo Spirito, around 850m. A special selection from a single parcel, the highest and rockiest section, from mostly pre-phylloxera vines, a deep voyage into Etna. Pale garnet red. Subtle, evolving nose, more terrestrial, balsamic, earthy and savoury than fruity, wild resinous herbs and old wood spice, pot pourri and medicinal notes lead, not an easy wine by any means but one that demands attention. The palate is uniquely silky-firm, with supple up front tannins that firm up across the back end, with high intensity and energy. Length is phenomenal – it just goes on and on, despite the apparent lacy elegance. Coiled up energy, not a flashy wine, highly sophisticated; “tonight you will still be thinking of this wine”. Best now-2030. 3000 bottles made.

95 Palmento Costanzo Etna Rosso Prefillossera 2019
From Santo Spirito, including scattered individual vines picked separately and a small concentrated parcel, aged in tonneaux. Really lovely nose , delicate, fruity-savoury, very fine palate, comfortable, concentrated, ripe without heaviness, effortless balance. Excellent length. Super elegant and refined. Top notch stuff.

95 Girolamo Russo Feudo Etna Rosso 2021
Only old vines are used for Russo’s crus, around 70 years old in this case. The nose is discreet but deeply perfumed and complex, with underlying floral and spice, and savoury wild herb notes. The palate shows considerable structure, compact, with abundant, dusty tannins – still a long way from prime and tightly wound. Length is excellent. Best from 2025 or so, or old into the late ’30s.

95 Passopisciaro Contrada “G” IGP Terre Siciliane 2020
“G” stands for contrada Guardiola, and its old vines at 800 meters, on relatively old soils. What a terrific nose here, floral, perfumed, elegant, with palate to match, supple and broad, despite the clear abundance of tannins. Perhaps the finest of the single Contrada range at this estate, complete, complex, delicious. Drink or hold into the early 1930s.

95 Eduardo Torres Acosta Pirrera Vino di Contrada Terre Siciliane IGP 2020
A single parcel at 850m in Sciara Nuova, Pierrera is the Sicilian dialect word for Pietraia, mounds of stones cleared from lands and piled in one place. 90% nerello mascalese, 10% mixed, all old vines of unknown age. This is the most open and perfumed of Acosta’s wines tasted today out of the full range. The palate, too, is complete and complex, with a broad range of supple, ripe red fruit and gentle spice, with fullish body, sapid and succulent, a really beautiful expression, crunchy, long in the mouth. A top wine, best from 2025. 

94 Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese DOC Sicilia 2019
All from Sciaranuova, 35-40 days on skins with submerged cap, long post-fermentation maceration. Aged in large foudre for a year (Stockinger and Garbelotto botti). Showing beautifully on the nose, evolving gently, slowly, offering layer upon layer of flavours from gravelly red fruit to fresh and dried herbs, dried earth. I love the balance on the palate, the elegance and finesse, the genuine length and depth while still light on its feet. 13.5% alcohol is fully integrated. A classy and refined wine, toute en finesse.  Tasted May 2023.

94 Planeta Etna “Vignitta” Vigne Vecchie 2018
From the old vines by the winery in Feudo di Mezzo, of unknown age, a mixed field blend, though about 85% planted to nerello mascalese, but also some carricante, guarnaccia (grenache) minella, and other minor local varieties – an old field blend. It’s evolving on the nose, but oh so savoury on the palate, extremely sapid and salty. This is really fine and refined, elegant, complex and delicious. 306 bottles made.

94 Passopisciaro  Contrada  “S” IGP Terre Siciliane 2020
“S” stans for contrada Sciaranuova, which sits at over 850 meters with very little topsoil, mostly lava stones, young, mostly from the 1614 eruption. The nose is stony and refined, elegant, a mix of stones and reduction, black pepper. The palate is leaner and tighter than, say, the Guardiola bottling, but balanced as such, with very fine but firm tannins. A unique expression to be sure, with terrific length, this might be the winner in time, but at the moment the Guardiola is singing a slightly sweeter tune.

Passopisciaro Contrada Rampante

94 Passopisciaro Contrada “R” IGP Terre Siciliane 2020
“R” stands for contrada Rampante, the highest in the Passopisciaro portfolio at around 1000 meters above sea level with its terraced vineyards, some as much as 2.5 meters high, on dangerously steep slopes (falling is a real hazard!) It’s always the last parcel to be harvested, and yields the wine with the lowest pH. The palate is indeed lean and tight, the acids sharp, the tannins very tight, short grained and grippy for now. See again after 2026 or so. A wine for wine lovers, I appreciate the difficulty of understanding this wine – needs attention to unwind and understand.

94 Calcagno Etna Rosso Calderara 2019
A one-hectare parcel of century-old vines, on relatively old soils. Open, aromatic and spicy, with fruity that stretches into darker territory, with a darker brown spice character. The palate too, has an extra dimension of depth and weight, and fat around the bones, with tannins that verge on the edge of silk for this tannic variety. This is complete and classy wine, the top bottling at Calcagno, not yet at prime, likely after 2025.

94 Tenute delle Terre Nere Santo Spirito 2021
Santo Spirito is the contrada just below Guardiola, and here in 2021 delivers marvelous perfume, a fine and elegant expression, very floral, with classic rose like-aromatics. The palate is broad, billowing with fruit, round and silky with succulent acids forming a spherical shape with no edges or corners. I love the powdery nature, the refinement; no sign of stress in the delicate-firm tannins. Terrific length. The soil here is more like powder, yielding always one of the most mellifluous crus in the Terre Nere lineup.

94 Tenute delle Terre Nere Guardiola 2021
The highest and latest parcel to be harvested, the first parcel that Marc de Grazia purchased to launch his Etna adventure at the turn of the century. It has such a lovely perfume, so refined, elegant and floral, already beautifully integrated, like all crus from Terre Nere, aged in a mix of tonneaux, barriques, and large cask as needed, with a small percentage of new wood. The oak is noted less here than say, Feudo di Mezzo. The palate is a combination of silky Santo Spirito and more edgy, high elevation, tension filled crus, with tart-firm, ripe acids. Length and depth are excellent. This will take more time to come around than Santo Spirito, with a bit more structure and girding. Tough to pick a favorite.

94 Tenute delle Terre Nere San Lorenzo 2021
San Lorenzo is on the north-western side of the volcano, almost at the edge of the appellation on the far side of Randazzo. It’s relatively tightly wound on the nose, with well integrated red fruit, spice and florality, quite complete and complex, with firm structure and significant depth and intensity, genuine concentration. I like the silky-firm, sapid palate and the tremendous length. Best after 2025.

94 Tenute delle Terre Nere La Vigna di Don Peppino Prephylloxera Calderara Sottana 2021
The famous 140+ year-old vines formerly belonging to Don Peppino, already old when he was a boy, with some vines certified through analysis to be up to 200 years old. Calderara Sottana is a warm site with jet black basalt soils filled with basalt cobbles that absorb and radiate heat all day and night – “the cauldron”. The nose displays that intense ripeness, verging into strawberry jam, with more new wood noted here, a touch more caramel-coffee, evidently a long way from prime enjoyment. It’s tough to taste at this young stage; revisit in 3-5 years. Depth and structure are of course exceptional.

94 Graci Etna Rosso Arcuría 2020
Clean, perfumed, refined and elegant, Graci’s 2021 Arcuría is a marvel of purity and finesse, with silky-firm tannins and voluminous but delineated palate, brimming with sapid fruit flavours. Wood is not a notable influence, leaving spice and stones to fill in the gaps. Excellent length; quality wine, best 2024-2030.

94 Pietradolce Etna Rosso Barbagalli 2018
Pietradolce’s top cru, at least in terms of price, this offers a touch more wood influence than the other crus yet never more than 10%, still quite backwards almost 5 years in. I find the palate a bit leathery, with fruit pushed in terms of ripeness even in this ‘fresh’ vintage, though this is far more savoury than fruity, mentholated, pot pourri-inflected.  It will take a long time to fully come around. There’s no denying the depth and concentration, though I prefer the 2019 Rampante on the day. Still excellent wine to be sure.

94 Tasca d’Almerita Tascante Contrada Pianodario Etna Rosso 2019
Properly pale garnet red, Tascante’s Pianodario is a light and perfumed, delicate and refined version of Etna, all gravelly-salty red fruit, with fine tannins and juicy acids. It’s deceptively powerful, lingering impressively on the finish with waves of flavour despite the seemingly delicate profile. An Etna that really steers in the direction of refined pinot noir, in the best way. Drink or hold 4-6 years.

94 Girolamo Russo Feudi di Mezzo Etna Rosso 2021
An old vineyard just outside of Passopisciaro. Pale red in the typical Etna fashion. The nerello that reminds Giuseppe of his childhood, growing up above the palmento, and its classic pot pourri, spice character, bright red fruit. Firm and silky tannins, excellent length. Fine and refined, a top example.

93 Palmento Costanzo Nero di Sei Etna Rosso 2019
Just shifting out of the fruit phase into more evolutive character, but still vibrant and youthful, Costanzo’s Nero di Sei, a blend primarily from Santo Spirito and Cavaliere contradas, is vibrant and bright, crunchy and firm, lively and energetic, with great length. I really like the balance on offer, the poise, genuine depth and complexity. Quality, post-modern Etna.

93 Pietradolce Etna Rosso Feudi di Mezzo 2019
Here’s a forward and attractive, deeply fruity-leathery spicy Etna in the classic regional style, broad and fleshy, relatively speaking, on the palate, with excellent length. This is coming together nicely, bringing spice, savoury, pot pourri and red fruit into the mix. Complete and well done.

93 Tasca d’Almerita Tascante Contrada Rampante Etna Rosso 2019
Pale, delicate, very finessed, also very herbal, a real mountain wine, sapid and salty, the Volnay of Etna. I must say I really love the Tascante style, the elegance and delicacy, so lacy and silky. Don’t seek power, though there’s genuine depth and concentration.

93 Palmento Costanzo Contrada Santo Spirito Etna Rosso 2019
24 months in egg-shaped oak vats. An Etna red on the more wooly-reductive side, also with noted oak influence, this 2019 from Costanzo shows very ripe red fruit on the palate flirting with volatility, but also evident depth and concentration. There’s an extra gear of flavour here, a surplus layer, with exceptional length. Shows the ripe fruit and powdery tannic texture of the contrada well, and is truly delicious. Cellar until at least 2025 for more integration or hold into the early’30s.

93 Girolamo Russo Calderara Sottana Etna Rosso 2021
A relatively new bottling for Russo, since 2017, when some young vines came into production and he rented another one-hectare parcel in the higher part of the contrada. This is harvested earlier than Feudi di Mezzo, and is more fertile and generous, yielding nerello that’s often more open when young, like this 2021. It expresses abundant red fruit on the nose, ripe but still fresh. The palate is juicy and generous, broad and round, relatively speaking with generous alcohol and weight. Excellent length. An “easier” wine, immensely satisfying.

93 Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese, DOC Sicilia 2020
Youthful, fruity-reductive, tightly wound and sapid, Planeta’s top Etna red finds excellent balance in 2020, offering a fine mix of savoury red and even darker fruit tonality, fully integrated (old, large) wood influence and refined, elegant tannins. This is a pure pleasure to sip, a wine that grows in complexity in the glass and each year as these relatively young vines mature.

93 Vigneti Vecchio Donna Bianca IGP Terre Siciliane Rosso 2022
From contrada Donna Bianca on the west side of the volcano, outside of the DOC, a blend nerello mascalese  50%, 20% cappuccio, 10% grenache, 5% nocera and 5% white grapes, 70 year-old vines, mixed planting, ungrafted in alberello. (The grenache is from Lord Nelson’s vineyard near Bronte on the west side of Etna, a property that Nelson never lived in, but it’s the reason grenache is planted here and there around Etna. The vineyard is flooded from time to time; a lava flow blocked a nearby river and created a lake that overflows in winter. It’s said that the vineyard survived phylloxera because of this.) Really pretty perfume here, very floral and elegant, with supple, succulent fruit on the palate and loads of salinity. This drives saliva with its succulent acids, and it’s fully ripe with polymerized tannins at 13.5% alcohol. Really enjoying this, toute en finesse. 1500 bottles produced.

93 Eduardo Torres Acosta Versante Est Carricante Terre Siciliane IGP 2021
From a one-hectare plot of old carricante alberello vines in Sant Alfio (Tenuta Puliti). 2nd vintage, aged in large botti (1000l and 600l). Despite the hot summer, this reached only 11.5%, not because of early harvest, but because of the position of this vineyard at around 800m elevation. It’s fine and refined, sincere and complex, with delicate white-fleshed fruit, and lovely salty acids. The palate is appealingly lean and linear, firm and gently grippy. Really like the tension and energy here. Freshness is remarkable in this vintage.

93 Eduardo Torres Acosta Arenarie Vino di Contrada Terre Siciliane IGT 2020
A rare single parcel on sandstone in Contrada Portieri (Monte Portella) planted to nerello mascalese, old vines, part converted from alberello to trellis. I find this more juicy, with lighter, finer tannins, also more open and sleek, with still lovely succulent acids. Acosta finds this to have more depth than the purely volcanic versions, poured last in the line up (or just before Pirrera), though I find it more open and giving early, with more of a sandy texture, not to get carried away, and the sapidity is surely high. Length, too, is very good, but in the end it’s a notch below the Pirrera, even if all wines at this address are excellent.

93 Calcagno Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo 2019
Grown on lavas deposited in the 1800s, still very rocky, with large boulders strewn about. A wild and savoury example, juicy, tightly wound, very mineral, stony. Tannins are abundant but harmonious, less rigid than the Arcuría from Calcagno. There’s terrific purity of fruit, and length is excellent. A notch above in terms of complexity, balance and stony site expression. Classy wine, best from 2025.

93 Tenute delle Terre Nere Feudo di Mezzo Etna Rosso Il Quadro delle Rose 2021
Always the first contrada to be harvested with surprising regularity, always around October 2-3, independent of the vintage. A small, circa one-ha parcel enclosed by lava walls (“quadro”), with tiny terraces and old alberello vines. Aged in both barrique and tonneaux, about 20% new, also occasionally large cask, depending on the vintage. Some spicy oak is noted here off the top – this is recently bottled and not yet in shape to be sure. I like the dried brown spice, the savoury, almost dried red fruit, the fairly supple tannins, relatively. Intensely sapid on the long finish. Balanced, concentrated, but elegance in spades. Best from 2024-2030. About 4k bottles made.

93 Tenute Tornatore Etna Rosso Pietrarizzo 2019
Pure nerello mascalese. Aged in 50hl foudres then blended back into concrete before bottling. A more reserved and mineral rosso in the range, properly tight and gritty, salty, with nicely contained red fruit and a strong iron-ferrous lick. Acids are succulent, and the finish lingers impressively. Proper, upright and straight, well within the lines, with character, a textbook Etna.

93 Mecori “Duo” Etna Rosso Contrada Muganazzi (Castiglione di Sicilia) 2021
“A very good vintage” for Mecori. Picked October 20th, 10 days later than 2020. The second vintage from this young, exciting project. A little more depth and structure than the (excellent) 2020. Tannins will need another couple years in bottle to settle in. The acid-tannin balance is in place in any case, and there’s a pure, raw sensation, just in need of a bit of polish from time. Length and depth are excellent.

92 Passopisciaro Contrada “C” IGP Terre Siciliane 2020
“C “stands for the contrada Chiappamacine, meaning “mill stone”, where a mix of volcanic and limestone soils sit relatively, low down the mountain at about 550 meters. The nose is gentle and fruity, open and attractive, while the palate is clearly ripe, featuring strawberry jam flavours that remind of garnacha. The finish lingers impressively; drink or hold 3-5 years. 

92 Passopisciaro Contrada “P” IGP Terre Siciliane 2020
“P” stands for contrada Porcaria, which usually yields the most powerful rosso in the Passopisciaro range, herbal-tonic, with darker fruit from these quartz-rich sandy soils. The palate shows a significant tannic load, with dark, almost reductive wooly character. Needs significant time in bottle, try again in 2025.

Old vines, Mecori

92 Mecori “Duo” Etna Rosso Contrada Muganazzi (Castiglione di Sicilia) 2020
Young couple Sebastiano Vinci and Serena Guarrera established Mecori (“my heart”) a tiny project, with this 2020, the first vintage bottled. The vineyard is anything but young, however, a wonderful site planted in 1927, with at least one vine thought to be over 200 years old. Like most parcels of land from that era, it was used for mixed agriculture, and you’ll still find dozens of olive, apple, cherry, hazelnut, and apricot trees all interplanted, alongside wild herbs like fennel and oregano. This wine was fermented and aged in steel, and delivers such a pretty nose, refined, elegant and spicy, with pure red fruit, ripe and fresh. It has a ‘natural’ feel without the deviations, a delicious and engaging expression. I like the powdery, refined tannins that make this reminiscent of Etna Rosso from the contrada of Guardiola (where there are similar soils, fine, sandy-dusty volcanics), the supple texture overall (one delestage is employed to remove the majority of seeds, while the must spends 10 days on skins), the finesse and refinement. I also love the spice, the chestnut wood character, the noble tannins with noble bitterness. Length and depth are excellent. Sincere, honest. This was made with selected yeast to avoid issues in an unknown, new, rented garage. 3500 bottles made. To carry the sustainability theme through, labels are made from cotton and affixed to ultra lightweight glass bottles with natural glue. The stylish label represents the colour of the bunches, the sharp half represents nerello, the shaded half is cappuccio. A really promising project all in all, even if it will likely always remains small.

92 Eduardo Torres Acosta Quota “N” Rosso Terre Siciliane IGP Piede Franco 2021
From the Quota Nave in Contrada Nave at 1000m above Randazzo, Acosta’s highest parcel, an ungrafted old mixed planting (80+ years old) of nerello mascalese with grenache and some plants of sangiovese and 30% white grapes. Exceptionally, this vintage reached 13.5%. Pale garnet red, with a nose that takes time to open up to reveal tart red fruit, delicate, also citrus peel, wild herbs, red currant, pomegranate, and more. The palate is grainy and tight, like all of Acosta’s wines, which take time to unfurl, and this one in particular will need 3-4 years in bottle.

92 Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2021
Produced from the young vines across all parcels, mostly nerello mascalese and a splash of cappuccio and bits and pieces of other rare varieties. Pale-medium red-garnet. Classically perfumed, open and fruity, featuring fresh red berry fruit and especially floral tones, faded roses. The palate is sleek and fleshy, generously proportioned but framed by succulent acids. Tannins are very fine and silky-firm. Really well balanced. A superb entry level. Represents about half of Terre Nere’s production.

92 Tasca d’Almerita Tascante Contrada Sciaranuova V.V. Etna Rosso 2017
From vines planted in 1961 in a small parcel in Sciaranuova. 30% barrique-aged, the rest in large cask. The wood is noted but not dominant, mixed with darker fruit, a bit of shoe polish. Great depth, though I prefer the Pianodario and Rampante. 2017 was a tougher vintage.

92 Graci Etna Rosso 2021
Clean and pure, fruit and spice-driven, with sleek-firm tannins and succulent acids, a well-balanced and succulent red, finely crafted. Very fine length and depth, stony and mineral the way we like them, a great entry [point to the mountain and the Graci range.

92 Pietradolce Etna Rosso Archineri 2019
Bright, evolving, still fruity (relatively, as far as the savoury wines of Etna go), Pietradolce’s Archineri 2019 is a mid-weight, firm, succulent example with dusty tannins coated by solid fruit extract. Wood is not a significant influence, and length and depth are excellent in the category. Iron dust lingers.

92 Pietradolce Etna Rosso Santo Spirito 2019
A slightly more reductive cru from Pietradolce, relative to the range, with more wet wool and dark fruit character, also heavier tannic load and extraction. It’s still quite impenetrable, several years away from prime, but I suspect will remain one of the more rustic and angular bottlings in this excellent portfolio. Best after 2025.

92 Tenuta Bosco Etna Rosso 2020
A clean and modern, highly polished Etna red here from Bosco, with gentle  oak influence (700l French oak, 2nd and 3rd fill, up to 10 months) not excessive. The palate delivers fine-firm tannins, and lively acids. Wood spice emerges on the long finish, and complexity builds, though this needs another 2-3 years minimum to come into shape. Should evolve well. Elegant and refined.

92 Barone di Villagrande Contrada Villagrande Etna Rosso 2018
Pale garnet red. Lovely, open, oxidative, dried red fruit profile, rosehip, dried orange peel, a proper old school style Etna red. Tannins are fine and dusty, comfortably ensconced in savoury fruit extract, and acids are comfortably bright, flirting with volatile, but staying on the right side. The finish lingers nicely. Certainly not a blockbuster style, but delicious and representative all the same. Drink or hold 3-5 years.

92 Tornatore Calderara Etna Rosso 2019
Exotically spiced, almost curry-like, powdery and concentrated on the palate, with great length and depth. A strength in the Tornatore portfolio in this vintage to be sure. Drink or hold into the late 2020s.

92 Girolamo Russo A ‘Rina 2021
Russo’s classic Etna Rosso, aged half in cement and half in botti. Pale red, perfumed, spicy red berry/cherry. The palate is mid-weight, juicy, with fine, refined tannins and long, savoury finish. Such a delicious, delicate yet complex and deep wine, a very high entry point into this great portfolio.

91 Benanti Etna Rosso Contrada Daffare Galluzzo 2021
The most complete and complex of the Benanti ‘Contrada” wines in 2021 along with the Calderara Sottana, Daffare Galluzzo from the north side of the mountain shows fine depth and extraction of fruit, and concentrated. Tannins are relatively well managed and acids in line. Best from 2024.

91 Benanti Etna Rosso Contrada Calderara Sottana 2021
From a warm site in a warm vintage, Benanti’s Calderara Sottana is a fleshy and satisfying wine, with firm, crushed velvet tannins, balanced-fresh acids and long finish. On the edge between modern and traditional, finding a comfortable milieu.

Planeta lineup

91 Planeta Etna Rosso 2021
Pure nerello mascalese in this vintage, from Feudo di Mezzo and Pietramarina, though from 2022 it will be pure (and labelled) Feudo di Mezzo. The 2021 is open and perfumed, fresh but ripe, with mostly red fruit and red flowers. The palate delivers a wash of gravelly tannins and lovely, crunchy acids, making for a highly drinkable expression, contemporary and inviting. Very good length and depth, a highly successful vintage. About two weeks on skins, then back to conical oak vats for 6 months ageing.

91 Passopisciaro Passo Rosso Etna Rosso 2021
Pure nerello mascalese, from partly purchased grapes (Feudo di Mezzo, Guardiola) with properly pale colour and lovely perfume, particularly delicate aromatics, all bright red fruit light despite the heat waves in 2021, with rains arriving at the right moment. It remains a tight and firm wine, with dry, dusty tannins, not overtly astringent, but far from supple and easy. I’d give this another 2-3 years in the cellar to soften out.

91 Vigneti Vecchio Etna Rosso Contrada Malpasso (Castiglione di Sicilia) 2020

A wine born during covid, with the family sitting around the old cellar and destemming bunches of the ancient family vineyards (age unknown but surely over a century) by hand. It’s fermented spontaneously in cement with whole berries, aged in the same cement. Intriguing, pure, almost blue fruit character, fresh blue plum, blueberry, also very floral, iris, violet, intriguing. Th palate is mid-weight, supple up front but turns grippy on the back end. A unique Etna expression, appealingly refined and elegant, not to say feminine. 1600 bottles produced.

91 Vigneti Vecchio Etna Rosso 2021
A blend of several contrade, the main wine of Vigneti Vecchio, aged in multiple vessels, wood, cement, fiberglass tank. This is a little more rustic I’d say, with some CO2 still noted. I like the purity of fruit, a feature in all of Vecchio’s wines; tannins are still a bit rough and tumble, and will need another 2-3 years in bottle to soften I suspect, but there’s ample fruit to support the cellaring time needed. Should emerge from its shell in good shape. 2021: very hot vintage, with some stressed vines, though late August rain helped the vines along.

91 Eduardo Torres Acosta Versante Nord Nerello Mascalese Terre Siciliane IGP 2020
Produced from six parcels, all old, mixed vineyards (the white grapes are picked separately to make the white version of Versante Nord). A small percentage of whole bunch is kept from the parcels at lower elevation, in finer soils (more fruit, broad texture, vs. the spicier and fresher nerellos from stonier soils higher up the mountain). 10% old barrel. A little closed on the nose I find, also quite rough in texture – tannins are really gravelly and the palate is tight, a long way from prime. The structure is imposing, supported by firm acids. I’d speculate at least another 3 years in bottle to come around. Length and depth are in any case impressive. 13.5% alc.

91 Calcagno Etna Rosso Arcuría 2016
The first vintage of Arcuría aged in large cask as opposed to barrels. Showing evolution into the porcini zone, and refined, silky palate, having reached that fine stage where fruit and tertiary flavours mingle comfortably, not past prime. À point I’d say, and showing the powdery texture typical of these sandy volcanic soils.

91 Torre Mora Etna Rosso Chiuse Vidalba 2018
An old vine selection from the estate property, called Chiuse Vidalba, but more officially the contrada is known as Daffare Galluso. 3000k bottles. 5% cappuccio. 18 months in tonneaux, (one new one).  The oak is very prominent here, unusual for Etna Rosso, spiced, resinous, not yet integrated over four years in, and likely won’t get there. The stuffing is great in any case, and the sapidity is high, even this much wood influence can’t wipe out the mountain’s character. Would love to see this with less wood, as the base material is excellent.

91 Massimo Lentsch Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo 2020
Massimo Lentsch, of Tenuta di Castellaro (Lipari), started operations on Etna in 2016 (there were two previous wines under the Castellaro brand in 2014 and 2015). Pre-phylloxera vineyards were purchased from Mick Hucknall (Il Cantante, Simply Red) in Randazzo, across the road from Terre Nere. This is pure and perfumed nerello mascalese, with beautiful floral character, and powdery-firm tannins with acids to match, and subtle, lingering finish. The back end drops off more quickly than expected, but it’s a lovely wine, highly drinkable, refined and elegant. Tasted May 2023.

91 Vivera Etna Rosso 2020
Fresh and juicy-fruity, tight and compact, this is a cleverly rendered wine, offering an appealing mix of fruit, spice, gentle wood influence and lively acids, drawing saliva and smiles. Perhaps not the most profound example, but a fine gateway to this beautiful mountain.

Etna Bianco & Rosato

97 Pietradolce Sant’Andrea Terre IGP Siciliane Bianco Carricante 2017
From Milo on the eastern slopes, prephylloxera vines, 140+ years old, a selection of the best terraces and vines, harvested later than the Archineri. Fermented and aged in a single 2000l barrel, with up to 10 months skin contact. “The Grand cru” of Pietradolce (2015 was the first vintage), this is not presented to the tasting commission for DOC status, a personal choice, hence the IGP. 1800 bottles made, sold on allocation along with Barbagalli (same price, 150e wholesale). Deep orange gold, and lovely, deep concentrated nose, no oxidative notes despite the long maceration. It’s actually quite subtle and refined, not a skin fermented white that tires you after a sip. Sapidity is off the charts, as is length. A wine of tension and energy, vitality and complexity. A remarkable example, pure and saline, an arch volcanic wine.

96 Benanti Etna Bianco Superiore Pietramarina 2016
Benanti’s classic Etna Bianco, the first great white from the volcano, pours a pale straw colour even seven years in. Grown on the east side within the zone permitted to bear the ‘superiore’ designation, the nose is delicate and only modestly evolved, slow as this wine is to open. White flowers, and subtle citrus lead before typical smoke and salinity, and Etnean freshness and acidity take over. Length and depth are excellent – it’s not a wine of immediate delivery, but rather one that needs to be sought out, waited for patiently, delivering one of the most minerally white wines in Italy.

95 Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco Montalto Cuvée delle Vigne Niche 2021
Pure carricante. 2018 was the first release of Montalto, a tiny parcel of c. one hectare on the southern slope of Etna, at 950 meters, with 70+ year old vines.  This is terrific straight off the top, with wonderful white fleshed orchard fruit flavours, white flavours, and beautiful balance on the palate, effortless. Lovely, succulent acids, so much sapidity, and remarkable freshness for the vintage. Extreme salinity and crunchy, saliva-inducing character. Really like this, classy, refined.

95 Barone di Villagrande Etna Bianco Superiore 2013
Villagrande’s classic Etna Bianco from 2013 is drinking beautifully now, pouring a pale gold colour and showing a noble and delicate evolution. Gentle smoky notes emerge, while on the palate sapid and terse acids frame the mid-weight wine, heavy with flavour but anything but heavy. Flavours show a wide range of non-fruity components, whites flowers and dried herbs, citrus peel and pith, tonic and salty. Length and depth are excellent. Drink or continue to hold into the ’30s, there’s no rush here.

94 Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante DOC Sicilia 2018
Tasted alongside the current 2019, this 2018, a cooler, wetter year, also more generous in terms of yield but a rare vintage of quantity and quality, seems even more compact and tightly wound, fruit backwards, extremely stony and very flinty. I love the palate, the crunchy green acids, a true wine lovers wine, with practically no fruit to report, in the best way. The finish lingers and tingles, tickles and draws saliva on and on.

94 Tenute Tornatore Etna Bianco Zottorinotto 2020
The highest vineyard in the Tornatore portfolio around 750m. Used to be blended into the Pietrarizzo, but from 2019 was bottled on its own. Fermented in concrete, then aged in acacia wood barrel for 8 months. Love the flavours here, the delicate floral and fresh, sweet herbal notes, nicely integrated even if not at prime. Acids play their usual succulent, saliva-inducing and sapid role, saline to be sure, though there’s a leesy note that emerges and gums up the ensemble slightly. Best after 2024-2025, should evolve into a pleasantly smoky-honeyed-salted caramel flavoured wine.

93 Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante DOC Sicilia 2019
From just outside (above) the Etna DOC, this spends a long time on lees, just under a year, unstirred, in stainless steel to develop those classic smoky, hydrocarbon notes of the variety that also arrive with some bottle age. This is clean and pure, very stony, sharply delineated and linear on the palate, with strikingly stony flavours, like a mountain spring. Broom, wild meadow flowers and sweet green herbs join the symphony of citrus, lime-lemon mostly, green and white, although this vintage shows a little more honeyed richness and ripeness, especially when tasted next to the extraordinarily stony and tight 2018. Long, stony finish. I wouldn’t call this a widely appealing style, but rather one for serious wines lovers, into distinctive minerally, non-fruity expressions. pH is usually 0.1 lower than the Taccione Contrada bottling (2.98-3.01 vs. c. 3.15). 

93 Planeta Carricante DOC Sicilia 2011
This was the precursor to the Eruzione 1614, a label which appeared in 2012, but essentially the same wine, same origins and philosophy. All stainless steel, the only difference with current vintages is that this was bottled before summer, so shorter time on the lees. Vines planted in 2007-2008.  Very flinty, dried mint, creamy-lees, honeyed, waxy, ageing well. I really like the hot buttered, honeyed toast character, reminiscent of Hunter Valley semillon. Tasted May 2023.

93 Passopisciaro “PC” 2020
From the Passo Chianche contrada, with no more than 5 bunches per plant, planted in ultra high density at 12300 plants per hectare. A very subtle, stony nose, discreet and refined, with little fruit to report, very vague citrus, but mostly wet stones and flint, a wine lovers chardonnay, with excellent class. It tastes more Etna than chardonnay, could be carricante similar, a wine where territory rules over all. Wood plays virtually no role, and full natural malo goes pretty much unnoticed.

93 Girolamo Russo San Lorenzo Etna Bianco 2022
Old vines carricante predominantly, fermentation finishes in tonneaux, where the wine is also aged for about half a year. Terrifically stony on the nose, with the merest hint of wood noted for now but will surely meld into the ensemble. I love the ripe, white fleshed fruit that emerges with air, the gentle spice, the savoury herbs, intriguing and complex, with great length. Savoury, sapid, well-made wine. Drink from 2025-2035.

93 Tenute Tornatore Etna Bianco Pietrarizzo 2021
Pietrarizzo: “the sharp rock”, rizzo-riccio. The second highest vineyard in the Tornatore portfolio around 700m, a terrace carved out of a recent lava flow and mixed with sand. Planted in the late 1990s. Fermented and aged in concrete. A splash of catarratto. Hand harvested, destemmed, pressed into concrete; fermented for 15 days, then part into 50hl foudres, the rest stays in concrete. A subtle, discreet nose, mostly flinty-lime-lemon aromatics, pure. The palate is quite broad, fleshy, very straight, with lovely white fleshed fruit character emerging. Length and depth are excellent; fine and elegant, tightly wound for the vintage, appealingly saline. Not yet at prime, at least 1-2 years out or should hold into the early 2030s.

92 Eduardo Torres Acosta Versante Nord Bianco Terre Siciliane IGP 2021
Produced from six mixed planting vineyards, harvested separately from the red grapes. Usually about 15% minella, plus carricante, catarratto, inzolia, etc. Represents about 10% of Acosta’s production. Destemmed, maceration for as long as it takes for fermentation to start, and when the cap rises, the skins are pressed (i.e. no alcoholic fermentation on skins; Acosta doesn’t like long skin contact). Aged 70% in concrete, 30% in tonneaux , 500-600l. Pale yellow gold colour. Lovely nose with fine concentration, all white-fleshed orchard fruit with an open, natural, sincere expression. The palate offers a bit of grip – phenolic resistance, and in the end, it’s a wine based more on layered textures than flavours or aromatics. Subtle, it will need another couple of years in bottle to reach its maximum. Should evolve into a honeyed waxy expression the way I like them. 12.5%

92 Passopisciaro Passo Bianco IGP Terre Siciliane 2020
Pure chardonnay, the larger production of white from Passopisciaro who make only chardonnay in white from about 8ha, largely planted in 2002. It’s a chardonnay with a strong herbal note, like the wild scrub and herbs that surround the vines, another very stony white from the mountain, more Etna than chardonnay, albeit more gentle and round, and approachable, than the same vintage of the “PC” single contrada chardonnay tasted at the same time. It’s a style of wine I have a lot of time for, so for detractors of this “foreign’ variety in Sicily, I’d urge you to give this a try. Aged in cement and large old foudre with no wood influence noted, also full malo but you’d likely never guess that.

92 Passopisciaro Passo Bianco IGP Terre Siciliane 2016 (Chardonnay.)
2016 was a very balanced vintage for both whites and reds, and this is starting to show some age now in its gentle caramel and dried fruit character, white peach and flint, slightly leesy. Though the palate picks up the pace considerably and shows the class of the wine, the evident density and genuine concentration, the firm but balanced texture. Again, more Etna than chardonnay. Excellent length. Worth ageing.

92 Torre Mora Etna Rosé Chiuse Metodo Classico Dosaggio Zero 2018
A pure nerello mascalese, 48 months on lees, released with no dosage, the latest wine in the Torre Mora range. Very pale, more gris colour. Very delicate, discreet aromatics, gently toasty, with lovely, creamy palate, and notable lees influence – Etna and nerello seem well suited to traditional method sparkling, being discreet and minerally at the best of times, a terrific start. I really like the texture, the richness and the depth on offer; complexity will surely continue to build. Great length. The ripeness and concentration are such that dosage would have seemed superfluous. 4k bottles produced.

91 Girolamo Russo Etna Rosato 2022
Pure nerello, all steel, both young and old vines, purpose grown and harvested. Fresh and  lively on the nose, fruity-savoury, crunchy and fresh, savoury and long. A delicious, food-friendly rosé for the table.

91 Girolamo Russo Nerina Etna Bianco 2022
Young carricante, plus a mix of old vines, mostly carricante but not only. Bright, fresh, minerally, discreetly fruity, with no notable wood influence (c. 20% aged in old oak). Acids are moderate – 2022 was a warm vintage-   round and relatively fruity, forward, drinking well even at this early stage. Very good length and depth, solid, well made.

91 Planeta Etna Bianco Contrada Taccione 2021
The Planeta Etna Bianco was always from Contrada Taccione, though 2021 is the first time it is listed on the label. 20%, was vinified and aged in large, untoasted foudre, the rest in stainless steel. 2021 was a slighter warmer season than the 2020 vintage, with relatively generous yields. The nose offers a generous amount of yellow-fleshed fruit and broad, relatively soft and ripe palate, fullish and inviting, drinking well now. Acids are also ripe, relative to the sharper Eruzione carricante, from higher elevation vineyards outside of the official DOC. 13% alc. 2021 is also the first year this wine is certified organic.

91 Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Rosato 2022
Made from early-harvested nerello mascalese purpose grown for rosato, bottled end of March. Bright and fresh, but also with a savoury undertow, cherry fruit and blossom. Lovely sweet-sour-tart and saliva inducing on the palate, with crunchy acids, solid length and depth. A terrifically drinkable and food friendly rosé, bone dy. One of the original rosatos on Etna, inspired by Marc de Grazia’s daughter Elena who  came into the winery at the end of harvest at about two years of age and said, “Papa, mi faresti un vino rosa?”.

91 Tenute delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco 2022
Predominantly carricante with a splash of ‘vigne nicche’ rare local white varieties. Freshly bottled and still discombobulated, on the reductive, flinty side, with typically low fruit intensity. The palate is properly lean and firm, tightly wound, with fruit mostly on the   citrus peel side. I like the gentle herbal character, sweet, with white flowers. Good to very good length. Complexity is above the mean, a well made wine, best 2024-2028. 

The Rest of Sicily – Sparkling, Fortified, and Sweet

97 Florio Marsala Semisecco Superiore Riserva DOC 2001
This is really remarkable wine, sweet-tart, caramelized and fruity, nutty, salty, savoury, with extreme length and depth. Such a wild and complex ride of flavour and a finish that goes on and on for days. Perfectly balanced. Tasted May 2023.

95 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Pantelleria Passito 2016
Intense, concentrated and complex nose, a classic expression from Donnafugata’s iconic Pantelleria, always one of the best from the island. It’s like pure apricots and peaches in syrup, wild flower honey, wild Mediterranean herbs and so much more. The palate is sweet, round and creamy, massively concentrated, miraculously not heavy, balanced by a highly appealing bitterness. A sweet wine that’s not sweet, and could even be served with savoury foods, cheese of course, but not only. 200 grams/l residual sugar, yet anything but heavy and sweet. This will evolve very slowly, and this is hardly out of the gates, and should continue to evolve it’s Mediterranean scrub, wild mint, sage and savoury character over time. Drink or hold 30 years.

94 Pellegrino Marsala Vergine Riserva Nº 167 Single Barrel DOC 2001
A classic, oxidative style, intensely nutty and intensely concentrated, with acids and alcohol in charge, but also a raft of flavour in the decidedly evolved style, hazelnuts, walnuts, carob and bitter chocolate, leather and so much more. Dry, with more savour than sweet on the palate, even with the dried fruit character.

91 COS Metodo Classico 2009
Pure Frappato. Tasted from magnum. Refermented with fresh must. On lees 10 years. 2009 was the first vintage. Pale gold-bronze colour. Evolved, complex nose-full of dried fruit, fresh yeast/bread sultana raisins, dried peach and apricot, dried cherry. Effervescence is gentle and the palate is creamy, with a fine point of oxidative bitterness to balance. Fully dry palate. An idiosyncratic product, not for all to be sure. Tasted May 2023.

The Rest of Sicily – White & Rosato

94 Planeta Didacus Sicilia Menfi  2020
Didacus is Planeta’s top expression of chardonnay made from a bunch by bunch selection on the oldest 4 hectares of vines planted in 1985, (the first vintage of Didacus was 2014). Mainly the free-run juice is used from the whole bunches added to the press, straight into specially selected oak barrels, the full kid glove treatment. This 2020 is a gorgeous, medium-full bodied wine, with surprising tension and depth, defying the warm climate of southwestern Sicily. Wood is noted but of very high quality, while length is exceptional. It’s at least another 2-4 years away from prime enjoyment, though surely cellerable into the ’30s without a stretch.  An expression of the evolution of chardonnay for Planeta, Sicily, and Italy.

93 Planeta Chardonnay, DOC Sicilia 2018
Evolving nicely now, Planeta’s pioneering chardonnay, which can be said to have changed the trajectory in many ways for Sicilian wine away from heavy and clumsy to more refined and ‘international’ styles, here in 2018 shows a delicate touch of wood and abundant, white-fleshed fruit, much more elegant and detailed, sharp and refined, than it was when it first came out in the mid-1990s. The palate is appealingly saline, fresh but not sharp, showing the Sicilian sun but in a gentle, early morning light. Length and depth are excellent. Drink now-2030.

92 Feudo Montoni Grillo Timpa 2022
Grillo is originally from Favara, a crossing of catarratto and zibibbo made in the 1860s, in the center of Sicily in the mountains 20kms from Feudi Montoni. This biotype tends to have higher acids and more aromatics than the mean. Relatively subtle nose, offering sweet herbs; white and green fruit dominates. The palate delivers great sapidity, creamy-fresh texture and excellent length. This is very good grillo to be sure, complex, complete.

92 Planeta Cometa Fiano Sicilia Menfi DOC 2021
Lovely, complex nose straight off, featuring fresh almonds, white smoke, white fleshed fruit, pears. There’s notable grip on the palate, and fine depth and concentration, with unusual freshness from Sicily. Length is excellent; refined; wood influence is minimal. 15% wood aged in large cask.

91 Feudo Montoni Inzolia Fornelli IGT Terre Siciliane 2022
Fornelli cru, the only west facing vineyard out of Montoni’s 44ha, where clay was once baked into bricks, hence the name which means “little ovens”. This is pure inzolia from a unique biotype, a massal selection of old vines, clean, youthful and fresh, surprisingly mineral, with white fleshed fruit and honeyed aromatics. Lovely, sapid, remarkably fresh for both the region and the vintage, though these vineyards at 800m with cooler nights relieve the stress and protect acids.

91 Tenuta di Castellare Bianco Pomice, Terre Siciliane IGT 2021
The first white cuvée of the winery (2008), a blend of 60% malvasia delle Lipari, a semi-aromatic variety distinct from the many other malvasias grown around the Mediterranean, and 40% carricante, for its acids and minerality. This has some fantasy on the nose, a particularly stony wine, wet salt, sea breeze, seawater-soaked wild herbs, white flowers, chamomile and more. I love the salinity on the palate, and the deceptive length for such a light and breezy wine. A touch of the malvasia florality emerges on the finish. All in all, a sheer, lacey, delightful wine, very well made, salty, silky volcanic, appealingly lean and infinitely drinkable. Emiliano Falsini consults. 13% alc.

The Rest of Sicily – Red

95 COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2010
2010 was a well balanced vintage overall, much like 2020. A curious, complex nose here of wild herbs and roasted vegetables, like a plate of antipasti, along with pot pourri/dried flowers. The palate is excessively salty, with finer and refined tannins, and vital and dynamic acids, ageing surprisingly slowly and still in fine form. That flavour profile of non-fruit components draws you in again and again for another look. Length is excellent. The wine continues to grow and grow in the glass. Terrific stuff. Drink or continue to hold another half dozen years – no rush here.

94 I Palari Faro DOC 2014
Medium garnet-red, showing advanced evolution in both colour and aromatics in a typical range of  dried mushrooms, dried fruit, pot pourri, perfumed and complex. The palate is mid-weight with high acids and fine, grainy tannins, and length is excellent. Not a wine of power, but length it has in spades, and while not silky and likely never will be, there’s a certain finesse and expression of refinement that defies the view of Sicily as a region of heavy and clumsy wines. Drink now or hold another couple of years – I don’t feel it has a great deal more to gain.

94 Tasca d’Almerita Rosso del Conte Sclafani Bagni DOC 1999
Mature but vibrant, Tasca’s classic Rosso del Conte has taken on a refined, advanced, savoury character, featuring Mediterranean scrub, wild herbs, green olive tapenade and more, with tannins still present and acids in shape and place. Length is excellent. A wine that balances Sicilian power and character with oenological savoir-faire, drinking beautifully now even if there’s no rush.

93 Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Lagnusa DOC Sicilia 2021
Aka calabrese, from the younger vines at 40 years average. The colour is unusually light for the variety, purplish-red, while the nose is marvelously aromatic and fresh, with lovely strawberry, cherry, wild herb, dried mint candied rosehip, carnations and more in an extremely unique expression of the variety. It’s infinitely lighter, fresher, paler and more vibrant than the mean. Terrific length and fine sapid profile. Really enjoy this. Tasted May 2023.

93 Le Casematte Nanuci Nocera, IGP Terre Siciliani 2018
Evolving at this stage, with fruit having faded, even if there wasn’t much to begin with in this predominantly savoury, pot pourri-inflected variety, this has shifted fully into the dried mushroom/porcini, dried herb and flower flavour spectrum, with silky texture on the palate. I really like the way this has shaped up, with tannins very fine and refined, and acids fully meshed into the ensemble. Length and depth are excellent. This is well worth a look – be sure to decant, it gets better and better with air.

93 Le Casematte, Faro DOC 2021
55% nerello mascalese, 25% nerello cappuccio, 10% nero d’Avola, 10% nocera, aged in both wood, 500l tonneaux for 16 months, and cement. Intense, perfumed, complex, with well-integrated oak and plenty of wild, resinous herbal-spice in the Mediterranean fashion, complexity is high. The palate is fullish, silky firm and highly savoury, with very fine tannins, if abundant, while acids are succulent. Excellent length. Quality wine, well made, complex and representative.

93 Le Casematte, Faro DOC 2016
An older vintage tasted alongside the 2021 current release, Casematte’s Faro, formerly called “4 Enne”, four ‘Ns’ for the blend, (nerello mascalese, nerello cappuccio nero d’avola and nocera), this has evolved marvelously – a fine vintage in the region – it’s at a perfect point of development, where bright, tart red fruit bleeds into dried mushroom/porcini, wild herbs, strawberry and red currant jam. It remains firm on the finish, so be sure to decant and serve with some salty protein.

92 Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Terre di Elio IGP Terre Siciliane 2021
From ancient vines, this is pale red-garnet in the varietal idiom, but much fruitier than examples from Etna, oak-free (fermented and aged in concrete), very pretty and perfumed. The palate is mid-weight and fresh with firm acids and tannins, and more of that wonderful perfume, fruity-floral. Very good length. Lovely wine – really like this. Up to 20% stems are used, just the ripe ones, fully lignified, which contributes to the perfume and the firmer texture. Tasted May 2023.

92 Le Casematte Nanuci Nocera, IGP Terre Siciliani 2021
Medium red-red. Spicy, old wood, leathery red fruit, this is an evolved, very Mediterranean wine, already shifted into tertiary fruit, pot pourri, dried flowers, mushrooms and more in a unique expression. Tannins are light and dusty, with structure resting more on acids that prop up the light astringency. While it’s already fruit-backwards, I’d suggest cellaring another 2-3 years for textural development. I like the succulence and sapidity, a genuine food wine for the table. Best after 2024, or hold until the end of the decade – nocera from Casematte ages very well and turns appealingly silky.

91 Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rose di Adele IGT Terre Siciliane 2022
A very pale rosé, also discreet on the nose, delicate and refined, no heavy hands here. Acids are moderate but high sapidity drives salinity and freshness. The finish lingers beautifully. A fine rosé to be sure.

91 Tenuta di Castellaro, Eúxenos Terre Siciliane IGT 2021
“Eúxenos” means hospitality to strangers, the writing found on amphoras found off the coast of Lipari from a shipwreck over 2500 years ago, which contained wine. It’s a rare dry, pure malvasía delle Lipari, vinified and macerated in earthenware amphora for 30 days, the same material used to make the ancient amphoras. It then remains in clay until the following harvest. Intriguing aromatics lead off, a mix of flint, smoke and salt, fresh earth. The palate shows palpable salinity; moderate acids are substituted by this sapidity which does the job of driving saliva. It turns even less fruity on the palate, a real volcanic, Mediterranean expression.

John Szabo, MS


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