July 13, 2020 0 By emma

This past week turned out to be Etna week. A long-time favourite of mine is the I Vigneri ‘Aurora’ Etna Bianco, so when digging out a bottle of this I noticed an Etna red, and it seemed like a good pair for the next few nights. To my surprise, further digging in pursuit of another wine on Sunday night unearthed a 2010 Vinudilice Sicilia IGT Rosato, from the same producer as the white (both are made by Salvo Foto, a renowned Sicilian winemaker who has done much to revive the region and its wines).  

2017 I Vigneri ‘Aurora’ Etna DOC Vino Bianco 12.5% alcohol $sold out
2016 Girolamo Russo ‘a Rina’ Etna DOC Vino Rosso 14.0% alcohol $sold out
2010 I Vigneri ‘Vinudilice’ Sicilia IGT Rosato 12.0% alcohol $sold out

The 2017 I Vigneri ‘Aurora’ Etna DOC Vino Bianco is from Regional Wines but alas, this seems now to be sold out. Made from Sicily’s native carricante, this is a chalky, delicate, complex white with ripe citrus, lime sherbet and a waxy, minerally complexity. It’s slightly oxidative, adding a hint of apple skin to the mix. The palate is taut, again very citrus-rich with a long pithy savoury mouth-filling palate, the acidity is a slow build to a grapefruity starburst on the finish. This is a subtle wine with a compact core and lovely tension and texture, very long and satisfying. The 2016 Girolamo Russo ‘a Rina’ Etna DOC Vino Rosso is a fragrant, chewy, spicy, savoury Nerello Mascalese (another Sicilian native), contained yet with expressive warm fruit – red plums, brambly berries. It’s not super complex but there’s enough to explore; the palate is lively with firm fine chewy tannins, and moderate acidity but with a distinct mineral undertow. There’s a core of fruit but the structure and texture are key here. There’s a degree of rusticity for sure but plenty of juicy-fruited character too. 

The 2010 I Vigneri ‘Vinudilice’ Sicilia IGT Rosato was fascinating. I felt a bit nervous, suspecting I had missed the boat on this one, but it turned out to be the most interesting wine of the trio. A waxy nose with a delicate perfume of apple & strawberry. Not fruity at all but also, curiously, not tired or oxidized either (though clearly there was a gently oxidative approach to winemaking and there is a hint of nuttiness, which seems reasonable on a rosé ten years in). The palate has a lovely compactness, with ripe yellow plum, a hint of berry fruit & a touch of spice on the finish. Fine-bodied, textural with a deft phenolic streak and a distinct salinity, there’s a tonic-like quality that makes it refreshing and moreish. Drank it over three days, where it settled into itself nicely. In all honestly, I can’t recall buying this wine, possibly as I tend to request random mixed cases when buying fun things from good people (thinking of the good Dr H at Oh So Pretty here) so it most likely arrived in that manner. Wish I knew though as would very much like some more!  

Three delicious wines with beautiful labels, from different tiny vineyards nestled on the side of an active volcano. As I sipped them, I wondered if the winemakers on that small island ever imagined that their wines would find their way to someone far far away, almost as far as one could go from their birthplace, on another small island (and coincidentally enough, in my case living right next to another active volcano). Wine remains one of a few products transparently connected to its place of origin, telling that story via its soil, climate and the people who coax it from vine to bottle. This link from producer to consumer can get overlooked even by those of us who love and obsess over wine – maybe we buy for the kudos of a label, or perhaps we just drink a glass without thought after a busy day. When this happens, it easy to overlook the most wonderfully fascinating aspect of wine: it’s a window into other worlds. I’ve never been to Sicily, but when I taste these nervy, intriguing wines, my mind wanders to their landscape, culture and history, filling me with a desire to visit and stand in the vineyards, hoping then I might understand better what was translated from soil to glass. And I’m reminded just why I love wine so much. 

(Edit: A bit of homework revealed the Rosato to be a medley of Alicante, Grecanico, Minella Bianco, Minella Nero and Nerello Cappuccio, from 100-200+ year old bush vines grown at around 1,300m at Bronte in Etna North – this information came from the Les Caves de Pyrene website which in turn makes it very likely the wine came to me via an Andrew Hedley OSP order.) 

Thanks to Jane, for supplying photos from her 2012 visit to Sicily.