The re­sults

The vol­canic Etna re­gion has thrilling po­ten­tial, said our tasters, but wines are best in younger vin­tages and when made in a fresh, vi­brant style. Amy Wis­locki re­ports

Decanter - - DECANTER -

LikE so mAny reds from italy, these wines show far bet­ter over a re­laxed meal than in a for­mal, tast­ing room en­vi­ron­ment – ‘they would per­form much bet­ter on the ta­ble’, com­mented An­drea Bric­carello. Emily o’Hare agreed that Etna reds make great food wines: ‘They’re re­ally good all-rounders be­cause of all that acid­ity and tan­nin. And the tan­nin in them isn’t as dra­matic as in neb­bi­olo, so they can even pair well with fish dishes. They’re a re­ally smart op­tion when din­ing out.’

That said, the tasters ques­tioned the bal­ance of some of the wines. ‘i re­ally like nerello masacalese as a grape,’ said michael Gar­ner, ‘es­pe­cially the aro­mas. But the vol­ume here is al­ways turned up to 11, Spinal Tap style – you’ve got high acid­ity and high tan­nins, all blast­ing out. As a neb­bi­olo ad­dict, i should be able to deal with tan­nins, but i’m not sure with nerello mas­calese that i’m get­ting the depth of fruit that i get with other very tan­nic va­ri­eties like neb­bi­olo. i def­i­nitely pre­fer sim­pler styles of nerello mas­calese be­cause the dan­ger of over-ex­trac­tion in the va­ri­ety is very ap­par­ent.’

Bric­carello also found some of wines ‘too ex­tracted, too over­worked and too over­done’, adding that the va­ri­ety needs care­ful han­dling. o’Hare on the other hand en­joyed the tan­nins, de­scrib­ing them as ‘im­pres­sively firm, but not too high’. she con­cluded: ‘if you like the ex­pres­sion of Pinot noir with the char­ac­ter of neb­bi­olo, this is an in­ter­est­ing wine.’

At the same time, the tasters were un­con­vinced by the com­par­i­son that is of­ten drawn be­tween Etna Rosso and Pinot noir or neb­bi­olo – of­ten prompted by the lighter colour of nerello mas­calese in the glass. ‘i don’t think it’s a fair com­par­i­son – i think Etna reds de­serve their own space,’ stated o’Hare. ‘Also, i found the aro­mas more Bordeaux-like than Bur­gundy-like. And for me, the wines we tasted lacked the depth of fruit of Pinot noir and the drama of neb­bi­olo.’

What these wines can of­fer in spades, said Gar­ner and o’Hare, is a sense of place – a real iden­tity. ‘The wines have a very par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter and you wouldn’t con­fuse them with any­thing else,’ said Gar­ner. ‘There is a real trans­parency to them,’ chimed in o’Hare. ‘They have a great ter­roir char­ac­ter and i’m con­vinced that given time that could be­come more in­ter­est­ing.’

All the tasters felt that the re­gion is still young and evolv­ing in wine­mak­ing terms. ‘it re­minds me of Barolo 30 years ago,’ said Gar­ner. ‘Etna as a phe­nom­e­non has been born in the last 10 or 12 years. There isn’t a fan­tas­tic amount of tra­di­tion, knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence there.’

some pro­duc­ers are over­work­ing the wines, ob­served Bric­carello, be­cause they are look­ing for sales in mar­kets, such as the Us, which pre­fer a big­ger, more oaky style. ‘But in the Uk we prob­a­bly pre­fer the tighter, cleaner style. i want to see fresh­ness, vi­brancy and fruit in these wines.’ This helps to ex­plain why the pref­er­ence was for the younger vin­tages, par­tic­u­larly 2015 and 2014.

The gen­eral view on longevity was that these are not wines for long-term cel­lar­ing. ‘i didn’t see any wine that i’d want to drink af­ter 10 years, largely be­cause they lack the depth of fruit to age well,’ re­flected Gar­ner. Bric­carello felt the wines with a pro­por­tion of nerello Ca­puc­cio in the blend did of­fer more fruit, and Gar­ner also pre­ferred these, find­ing them less as­trin­gent and bet­ter bal­anced. in the other camp, o’Hare was sur­prised to find she pre­ferred the va­ri­etal mas­calese wines, de­scrib­ing them as ‘charm­ing’.

En­try cri­te­ria: pro­duc­ers and UK agents were in­vited to sub­mit their lat­est- re­lease Etna Rosso DOC wines

‘If you like the ex­pres­sion of Pinot Noir and the Neb­bi­olo char­ac­ter, try these’ Emily O’Hare

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