This is a “natural wine” from Massimiliano Calabretta, the highly regarded Mt. Etna producer who specializes in organic and bio-dynamically grown grapes and artisanal methods of production, using native yeasts and long ageing in massive, Slavonian oak barrels like in the old days. (I found no information about whether sulfites are used in the production process.)
The vineyards are located nearly a half mile above sea level in the volcanic soils of Mt. Etna’s north slope. This is a multi-vintage (2009, 2008 and 2005) blend of 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio.
The intense nose is loaded with dried cherry, dusty earth, and dried flowers. Wild herbs and a hint of volatile acidity in the background contribute to the complexity. The palate is vibrant but quite drying as it unfolds with clove and orange zest mingling with sour cherry. The fruit and spice hold steady and provide focus all the way through the finish as the tannins and acidity swell and spread like the incoming tide and then grips like bulldog jaws. The fruit is angular right from the beginning not even pretending to be smooth or lush. Its gritty, acerbic personality is redeemed by a layer of fresh juiciness. The whole experience is a sort of twisted pastorale that comes together when country outlaw Steve Earle buys his ticket to the Shadowland.
I love this wine but it won’t back down.
Price: $19 (purchase at Vino Carta in San Diego or at their online store)