Introducing our latest wine travel discovery for you! This time from the remote northern slopes of a very active volcano, Mount Etna in southeastern Sicily …. and where old Nerello Mascalese alberello (“little tree”) vines hope to remain unscathed from future flows. Here this varietal grape is king. It struggles against extremely harsh weathering conditions, which over time erode the volcano’s spew of lava, rocks and ash, and transform them to diverse tiers of well drained tufts, sands and black loam. Somewhat loosely defined vineyard/growing regions which can belong to multiple owners, are identified by the locals as “Contrade”.
Although still emerging as a world class wine region, without question Etna is one of Italy’s most compelling “new” wine regions. In 2012 there were just 30+ wineries, while today that number has risen to another 100 producers. Our latest discovery is so new, only its first vintage is finally available, and just for the first time in the United States. More remarkable, the total production is about 5600 bottles.
Last April at the Contrade dell’ Etna in Randazzo, Sicily and we were nearing the completion of the event’s second day when we fortunately happened to taste the downright stunning 2017 “Cuba”
and charismatic “sister” 2017 Etna Rosso
The “Cuba” was instantly magical ….. and we each gave the other “THAT LOOK”!! Then the “standard” Etna Rosso got us shaking our heads and muttering wtf! Graceful, elegant, supple, finesse, nuanced minerality and complexity. True class! We met enologist-winemaker Benedetto Alessandro to begin the process, and eight months later here are the wines.
While everyone looks upward to the terraced hillsides of north Etna, Monteleone took a step back and found two small adjacent parcels of Nerello Mascalese
at a lower elevation
planted in 1935 (albarello trained) and the other planted in 1970 (espalier trellis). Together the vineyards total just 2 hectares(about 5 acres)
, but more importantly they are situated along the Alcantara riverbed that runs through the valley at just 1600 feet above sea level. From past flooding along the river, the vineyards have rare deposits of clay mixed with the volcanic sands. The clay from this unique terroir adds body to the wine, and works to smooth the edgy acidity
that can make some Etna Rosso less enjoyable when young.
The “Cuba” parcel is named after the ancient historic stone church Cuba di Santa Domenica
that is just 30 meters from the vineyard. Our country is still a little touchy about anything called “Cuba”, and so for that reason a label change was required to “Qubba”
which is the local dialect for Cuba.
Just 1250 bottles produced – 20 cases imported. Destemmed 100% Nerello Mascalese. Aged one year in 700 L slightly toasted oak barrels (tonneaux), and another year matured in the bottle before release. Atypical darker ruby color. Classic Etna aromas of intense wild berry and dark ripe cherry, fennel, subtle wet ash minerality, hints of orange zest. Medium bodied, perfectly balanced, supple and smooth. Elegant intensity. Very fine tannin lengthens the finish. Beautiful to drink now, but should continue to please for another 6-8 years. ES
Drink either wine with Sicilian fried cheese, dark meat chicken-poultry, veal and pork from sausage, chops to roasts, wood fire grilled salmon, wild mushroom risotto, tomato-ragu pastas.