Category Archives: Etna Rosso

Firriato: Sicilian Wine at its Best

I have a long history with the wines of Firriato from Sicily. When I was the wine director for I Trulli restaurant in NYC, I was introduced to them by one of the wine salespeople. Knowing my taste, he believed that I would like the wines and he was right.

Next, Michele and I went to Sicily where we visited the Firriato estate near Trapani. We were treated to a typical Sicilian lunch paired with their wines and learned to appreciate them even more. Then, a few years ago I attended a lunch at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in NYC where I enjoyed the more current vintages.
Recently, I was asked if I wanted to taste a number of samples from the winery and I accepted gladly.

The winery

Firriato is a family run business; the president is Salvatore Di Gaetano, the CEO is Vinzia Novara Di Gaetano, the COO Is Federico Lombardo di Monte Iato, and the Chairman is Irene Di Gaetano Lombardo di Monte Iato.

Firriato is comprised of 6 estates, four of which are near Trapani: Baglio Soria, Borgo Guanini — the largest with over 140 hectares of vineyards, Pianoro Cuddia and the Dagala Borromeo. On the east coast near Mount Etna is the Cavanera estate that has 11 hectares of vines. Off the coast of Trapani are the Egadi Islands. The Calamoni estate is on the island of Favignana.

The Wines

Le Sabbie Dell’Etna Etna Bianco DOC 2016 made from Carricante and Catarrato from the territory of Castiglione di Sicily (Catania) at the Cavanera Estate. The soil is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage. The vineyards are on the northeastern side of the volcano at 720 meters. The soil is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage and there are 4,000 to 4,500 vines per hectare and the vines are cordon royat trained(trellises). Harvest is the second week of October. Fermentation lasts for 15 days. Vinification: soft pressing and fermentation at a controlled temperature. The wine remains for 3 months on the  lees in steel tanks with daily shaking and remains in bottle for two months before release. This is a fruity wine with hints of white peaches and pears.

Favinia “La Muciara” Bianco 2014 IGT Sicily. Made from Grillo, Catarratto and Zibibbo. The grapes were grown on the Island of Favignana off the west coast of Sicily. They are grown at the Tenuta Calamoni estate, which is two meters from the sea. The training system for the vines is alberello and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand during the first week in September and the grapes are placed in small baskets. In the winery soft pressing is followed by fermentation for 20 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and for 2 more months in bottle before release. The heat during the day and the ocean breeze make for a wine with a mineral character and good acidity. The vineyards are 10 years old.

Ribeca DOC Sicily 2013 made from 100% Perricone from the Pianoro Cuddia Estate in the Trapani countryside. The soil is clayey and the vineyards have a south/southwest exposure and are at 200 meters. The training system is guyot and there are 5,000/6,000 vines per hectare. Grapes are hand picked the third week of September and the first week of October. Fermentation is for 14 days at 26/28 degrees C. in temperature controlled steel tanks in to red wine tradition. The wine is aged for 10/12 months in French durmast barrique. The wine has hints of cherries and blueberries with a touch of prune and juniper.

Le Sabbie Dell’Etna Etna Rosso DOC 2015 made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from the Cavanera Etna Estate at the Northern side of the Volcano at 700 meters. The soil is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage and the vines are cordon royat trained and there are 4,000 to 4,500 plants per hectare. Gapes are hand picked the 2nd and 3rd weeks in October. Fermentation lasts for 14 days. Vinification is carried out according to tradition. The wine is aged in durmast barriques for 6 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. The wine has hints of black cherry, prune with a touch of licorice.

Cavanera “Rovo delle Coturnie” Etna Rosso DOC 2013 made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from the Cavanera Etna Estate. The soil composition is loamy-sandy of volcanic origin with good drainage. The vineyards are on the northeastern side of the volcano at 750 meters and there are 3,000 to 4,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand the 2nd and 3rd weeks of October. Fermentation is for 18 days. Vinification in frustum of cone shaped wooden, according to tradition. The wine is aged for 9 months in French barriques and for 6 months in Slovenian durmast. The wine has hints of red fruit, peach a hint of black pepper and good minerality.

Santgostino “Bagio Soria” Terre Siciliane IGT 2012 made from Nero d’Avola and Syrah. The vineyards have a south/south westerly exposure and are at 200 meters. The soil is calcareous-clay and the vines are cordon trained, spur pruned/guyot and there are 5,000/6,000 vines per hectare. Hand harvest the first week of September for the Syrah and the second week of September for the Nero’d Avola.
Traditional vinification in temperature controlled steel tanks.
The wine is aged for 8 months in American Durmast barriques and 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of wild berries, cherries and a touch of prune, clove and licorice.

Chiaramonte Terre Siciliane 2015 IGT 100% Nero d’Avola from Tenuta Dagala Borromeo in the Trapani countryside. The vineyards have a south/south-westerly exposure and are at 230 meters. The soil is mid-mixture, mostly clay, vines are cordon trained, spur pruned/guyot and there are 5,000 to 5,500 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place the third week of September. Fermentation lasts for 10 days. Vinification in temperature controlled stainless steel tank according to tradition. The wine is aged for 6 months in American durmast barrriques and in bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of black cherries and blueberries with a touch of black pepper and cloves.

Harmonium Sicily DOC Sicily 2013 100% Nero d’Avola from the Borgo Guarini Estate. This is a “cru” from 3 vineyards: Ferla cru with a north-east exposure, Beccaccia cru with a south exposure and the Lepre cru with a south-east exposure. They are at 300 meters. The soil is calcareous-slime, there are 5,000/5,500 vines per hectare and the vines are cordon trained and spur pruned. Grapes are hand-picked the third week of September. Vinification in temperature controlled steel tanks according to tradition. The wine is aged for 12 months in French and American durmast barriques. This is a well-structured wine with hints of cherry, blueberries, prunes and a hint of pepper and nutmeg.

Passito IGT Sicily “L’ECRÙ” 2008  made from Moscato and a small amount of Malmsey from the Tenuta Borgo estate in the Trapani countryside. The soil here is of medium texture; mostly clay and the vineyards have a north-south exposure at 250/400 meters. There are 5,500 vines per hectare and the training is cordon spur pruned/guyot.
The harvest takes place the first week of September and the most mature grapes are hand harvested. The rest remain on the vines until they reach full maturity. Soft pressing of the grapes and the fermentation at controlled temperature lasts for 4 weeks. The wine is aged in bottle for 4 months before release. This is a very elegant dessert wine with aromas of candied orange peels, dried figs and dates. It has a clean but long finish and wonderful aftertaste.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Etna Bianco, Etna Rosso, Passito, Sicilian Wine, Sicily

Dining at Tarallucci and Vino, NYC

Tarallucci and Vino just opened a new location at 44 East 28 Street and I couldn’t be happier. Michele and I attended a “soft opening” dinner last night and it was terrific. First of all, it is a great looking place with a large outdoor area, spacious bar room and comfortable dining room. The owner Luca Di Pietro greeted us and immediately offered us glasses of Pecorino, which was very welcome and refreshing on a hot night.

Luca and Lorenzo

Luca and Lorenzo

Lorenzo Baricca, the wine director, whom we had met on a wine trip several years ago, is a partner. He proudly showed us his impressive collection of older wines going back to the 1960’s.IMG_0962

We began our meal with some appetizers. Burrata cheese with roasted baby eggplant for Michele and grilled octopus with potatoes, celery and caperberries for me.IMG_0961

There was also an appealing list of small plates for sharing, such as fried polenta, ‘nduja with mascarpone and tomato, and pancetta with a confit of shallots. These weren’t available for the preview dinner, but they sounded delicious.IMG_0965

For our main course, both of us chose pasta. Michele had the Fregnacce with Duck Ragu, broad fresh pasta strips with a rich duck sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano,IMG_0963

while I opted for the Agnolotti, ricotta-filled ravioli sauced with mushrooms, hazelnuts, and basil.IMG_0964

We also had a side dish of roasted eggplant.IMG_0969

To finish off the wine, we ordered a cheese course. Three cheeses appeared: Parmigiano Reggiano, gorgonzola and robiola, all of them in perfect condition. A small bowl of good honey topped with chopped almonds accompanied the cheese.IMG_0971

We couldn’t leave without dessert so I chose the gelatoIMG_0972

and Michele had the panna cotta with verbena and peaches.IMG_0966

The wine list is extensive but not overwhelming. Lorenzo has some unusual wines on the list such as Caprettone, a white from Cantina Olivella, the aforementioned Pecorino, and a Nero D’Avola which we also sampled. The highlight for me was the bottle of Benanti Etna Rossa “Rovittello”   2004.IMG_0974

The older wines on the list include the 1962 Barolo Riserva Speciale from Marchesi di Barolo ($250) and Rivetto Barolo 1966 ($150), which are very well priced.IMG_0960

Tutto finisce a tarallucci e vino,” is an old Italian saying meaning that it all ends well.

To quote the menu, “The famous Italian saying comes from a tradition of resolving any matter over a glass of wine and tarallucci, the classic southern Italian cookie.  Since 2001 Tarallucci e Vino has adopted this philosophy and applied it every aspect of our dining experience. From our handcrafted pastries every morning to our fresh pastas and locally and seasonally inspired Italian plates at night, we invite you start or end your day and unwind at Tarallucci e Vino.”

What an appealing thought and we totally agree!

There are several Tarralluci e Vino locations in Manhattan. For more information go to http://www.taralluccievino.net/. 212-779-1100

3 Comments

Filed under Benanti Rovitello, Bertani, Etna Rosso, Tarallucci and Vino NYC, Uncategorized

Marco de Grazia and Tenuta Terre Nere at La Pizza Fresca

IMG_0315Beginning in the 1980’s, Marco de Grazia, with his company Marco de Grazia Selections: Wines from the great crus of Italy, has had a great influence on Italian wine producers. He has been a figure of some controversy but I would like to write about Marco de Grazi as the owner/winemaker of Tenuta Terre Nere in Sicily.

Brad Bonnewelll and Marco de Grazia

Brad Bonnewelll and Marco de Grazia

Brad Bonnewell, wine director of La Pizza Fresca Restaurant, invited me to a dinner featuring the wines of Terre Nere. Marco de Grazia spoke and told us that the estate is located on the northern slope of Mt. Etna with vineyards between the villages of Solicchiata and the town of Randazzo. The first vintage was in 2002. The property is over 30 hectares, divided into 10 parcels in four cru vineyards: Calderara Sottana, Santo Spirito, Guardiola and Feudo di Mezzo. Marco believes in the importance of expressing the character of each cru in all its purity.

The WinesIMG_0310

Etna Bianco 2014 DOC. Marco said he first made the wine in 2005. It is a field blend made up of 65% Carricante plus Inzolia, Catarratto, Grecanico, Inzolia and Minnella in the townships of Castiglione de Sicilia, Randazzo, Biancavilla and Milo, from many vineyards with different exposures. The soil is volcanic. The harvest is in the beginning of October followed by a soft pressing and low temperature fermentation in stainless steel.

We had this with imported bufala mozzarella and prosciutto di Parma.IMG_0323

Etna Rossa 2013, 2014 DOC Made from 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio from low yielding vineyards both young and old in the townships of Castiglione di Sicilia and Randazzo. The vines are 6 to 50 years old, the soil is volcanic and the exposure is north. The grapes are macerated until the end of fermentation and the wine remains in wood for about one year before it is bottled.IMG_0415

We had the red wines with a number of different dishes including Pizza Margherita and Pizza Salame Picante.IMG_0325

Santo Spirito Etna Rosso 2012, 2013 DOC Made from 98% Nerello Mascalese and 2% Nerello Cappuccio in the township of Castiglione di Sicilia. The soil is deep black volcanic soil, the exposure is northern and the vines are 40 to 100 years old. Aged for 6 months in stainless steel, then aged in equal proportions in French barriques, tonneaux and casks.IMG_0327

 Calderara Sottana Etna Rosso 2012, 2013 made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio in the township of Randazzo. Marco said the Calderara Sottana’s soil has the most stones and black volcanic pumice of all the crus on Etna. The vineyard is at 600/700 meters, with a northern exposure and the vines are between 50 and 100 years old. The vineyards are steeply sloped and tightly terraced. Harvest by hand in the second half of October. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration lasts 10 to 15 days. Malolactic fermentation  and maturation are carried out in oak. After 18 months the wine is bottled without filtering. Marco described these two wines as: floral and spicy, leathery and aromatic, and creamy.IMG_0324

Etna Rosso “Feudo di Mezzo” 2013 DOC made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from the township of Castiglione. The soil is black volcanic ash with basaltic pebbles. The vines are 50 to 80 years old with alberello plantings. The exposure is northern and it is terraced. Harvest is by hand. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak barriques and tonneaux for 18 months. Marco said that of the crus, it is usually the first to be ready to drink.IMG_0329

Prephylloxera Etna Rosso 2013 DOC Township of Randazzo from the Don Peppino Vineyard. Made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Marco said in front and to the right of the cellar in the Calderara Sottana vineyard are two parcels, in the midst of the larger vineyards that have survived phylloxera. They therefore are over 130 years old and stand on their own rootstock. Exposure is northern and the soil is black volcanic pumice with some ash. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak barriques and tonneaux for 18

Leave a comment

Filed under Etna Bianco, Etna Rosso, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, La Pizza Fresca, Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Uncategorized