Beginning 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 months.