GRACI ETNA ROSSO 2012
Wine: Etna Rosso
Apellation: Etna DOC
Grape: 100% Nerello Mascalese
Price: $65/btl, $22/quartino
Sicily is the southernmost region in Italy and consists of the the largest island in the Mediterranean sea along with surrounding islands. Separated from the Apenine Peninsula by the narrow Strait of Messina, Sicily’s geography is dominated by the active volcano Mount Etna, the tallest in Europe at 3,350 meters.
Inhabited as early as 8000 BC, Sicily was an important region in the classical world, falling under first Greek and then Roman rule. About 750 BC, the Greeks began to live in Sicily establishing many important settlements including the prominent city of Syracuse. The native Sicani and Sicel peoples were absorbed by the Hellenic culture with relative ease, and the area was part of Magna Graecia along with the rest of Southern Italy, which the Greeks had also colonised. Sicily was very fertile, and the introduction of olives and grapevines flourished, creating a great deal of profitable trading.
The modern history of Sicily began with its inclusion as a part of Italy in the 1860 Unification of Italy led by Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1946, at the birth of the Italian Republic, Sicily was classified as a special autonomous region.
Winemaking in the Region:
Blessed with consistently bright sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, Sicily’s classic Mediterranean climate is ideally suited to the production of wine grapes. The warm, dry climate means that mildews and rots are kept to a minimum, particularly in well-ventilated areas which benefit from coastal breezes. This low disease pressure means that chemical sprays are hardly needed, so much Sicilian wine is produced from organic grapes.
Ironically, the island’s near-perfect vine-growing conditions played a key role in the downfall of Sicilian wine in the late 20th Century. Reliable sunshine and low disease pressure have always made it easy for Sicilian growers to push their vineyards into generating high yields, but when the Italian government offered subsidies for ‘upgrading’ to higher-yielding vine management techniques, the temptation was too much to refuse. These higher yields naturally led to imbalanced, flavor-lacking wines – a drop in quality which was soon mirrored by a drop in consumer confidence. The market was soon awash with low-quality, low-priced Sicilian wine. Fortunately, a subsequent movement to reverse this reputation has been increasingly successful and Sicily is now one of Italy’s most promising and interesting wine regions.
The historically rich region of Catania, located on the island’s eastern coast south of Mount Etna is known for Etna DOC, where vineyards of mineral-rich, dark volcanic soils are found on the slopes of the giant volcano, where cooler temperatures help to preserve acidity in the grapes and the rich soils lend an intensity and complexity to the wines produced there, helping establish Etna DOC’s reputation as one of Sicily’s top wine-producing areas. The Etna Rosso red wines are largely produced from native grape varieties Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio, with the former dominating most blends.
Graci, situated on the north slope of Mount Etna at Passopisciaro, is found in an area where viticulture dates back several thousand years. Their vineyards sit at an altitude between 600 and 1,000 meters above sea level. Planting density ranges from 6,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare. Many of the vines are still on original rootstock, ungrafted, having never been affected by the phylloxera scourge thanks to the unique nature of the volcanic soils.
Intervention of any kind is extremely limited, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. They do not use herbicides in order to preserve the unique balance and vital energy of the soil. They do not use barriques, but only the big, upright, wooden casks known as tini and large, well-used wood barrels. Their sole objective is to reflect the personalities of their vineyards and the sublime differences between each and every harvest.
Graci Etna Rosso 2012 is produced from 100% Nerello Mascalese. A pure expression of the indigenous grape, the wine shows a gorgeous garnet hue with brilliant ruby highlights. The color is healthy and saturated. Elegant and integrated aromas of dark fruit, ash, tobacco and spice are present in equal measure. Its texture is thickly woven and velvety in feel with firm, but well-managed tannins. The bright acidity makes it an ideal partner for charcuterie and rich cheeses and it also makes a wonderful accompaniment to grilled meats.