Sicily is a land of incredible beauty with a long, storied past. As an island off the toe of southern Italy, possessing idyllic conditions for growing the essentials of the Mediterranean diet, Sicily has been home to many cultures, all of which made wine. Sicily is also home to Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active and tallest volcano, which has erupted five times over the last year alone (2011). The 500,000 years of volcanic activity has created one of the most fertile agricultural valleys in Italy, if not the world. Another feature of all this volcanic activity is an incredible variety of soil types, leading to high variability in terrior, even on the same hillside. Enter Marc de Grazia, one of Italy’s most revered wine exporters with a knack for finding some of the most interesting wines to send back to the US.

In Sicily, Marc has gone one step further and is actually making the wine from an ancient region: DOC Etna. Terre Nere is the name of this venture and one that you should get to know. Vinification at the winery is classic Burgundian in style, which shows in the bright, ruby red color and lively red fruit flavors.

The vineyards are located at extremely high altitudes, ranging from 2,000 – 3,000 feet above sea level. The weather at such high altitudes – hot direct sunlight with cool shade and cold nights – contributes to the extraordinary finesse of the wines, missing the heat and overripe sensations that overwhelmingly define most Southern Italian wines. A portion of Terre Nere’s vines are pre-phylloxera; the rest are about 50 years old. The trellising is “en goblet” or self standing, like the vineyards in Central Spain. The grapes, Nerello Mascalese (98%) and Nerello Cappuccio (2%) are harvested at the end of October (making it the second to last harvest in all of Italy, after Aglianico), which is a risky proposition but one that yields superior results. The 2010 Rosso is lovely wine, which at an average retail price of $21.99 per bottle is quite a bargain.

My tasting note:

Lightly fruity nose with floral, chalk and dried herb hints. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, dry tannin – good balance. Red berry palate – fresh and lively – fruity and spicy with fresh raspberry notes – elegant. Moderate length – smooth with flecks of black pepper and allspice. Drinking well now and should hold for another 2 to 3 years in bottle. Charming.