Mount Etna has become one of Europe’s most FASHIONABLE GRAPE-GROWING REGIONS, wine editor MARY DOWEY selects this wine from MARKS & SPENCER as her bottle of the week …
Nicosia Etna Rosso 2015
The slopes around an active volcano may not seem the most obvious place to plant high-quality vineyards. But so impressive are many of the wines now produced on Sicily’s dramatic eastern side that Etna has become one of Europe’s most fashionable grape-growing regions. While some are pretty expensive, this likeable bottle from Marks & Spencer enshrines the Etna style at a very decent price.
With flavours of dark autumn berries and more savoury notes underpinned by a firm tannic structure, it’s a red wine to enjoy with robust food – winter roasts and grills, for instance; pasta with a rich meat-and-tomato sauce or just about any main course based around mushrooms. What I particularly like about it is that, although grippy and flavoursome, it is also elegant with an appetising, almost salty streak of minerality – the kind of taste you might expect from grapes grown on volcanic soils.
Although this unlikely viticultural region only had a handful of wine estates 30 years ago there are now over a hundred, some of the most prestigious surprisingly high up on rumbling Mount Etna. A few serious winemakers discovered in the early 1990s that the combination of altitude, bright sunlight and volcanic soils suited vines to perfection. (The Greeks had made the same discovery 600 years BC.) When the singer Mick Hucknall of Simply Red launched his Il Cantante vineyard near the volcano in 2001, Etna lurched towards the fashion spotlight that has seen top producers from other parts of Italy and beyond move in.
The grapes in this M&S wine follow the typical local recipe: 80% Nerello Mascalese (not unlike the Barolo grape Nebbiolo, or a more tannic than usual Pinot Noir), and 20% Nerello Cappuccio, blended in to add colour and fruitiness. There is only the merest whisper of French oak.
From Marks & Spencer, €15.50.
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