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Sicily's Finest: 2017 Tenuta della Terre Nere

Sicily's Finest: 2017 Tenuta della Terre Nere

To be great in Sicily, one has to be aware of terroir and not succumb to cliches. One has to recognize differences above all else and be willing to take a punch. Here is the quick story of Tenuta Della Terre Nere:  On roughly 21 hectares, of which roughly half are uprooted and replanted, the rest between 40-50 years old, with 1.5 pre-phylloxera. Decades, centuries, millenniums and eons of volcanic eruptions have resulted in endless soil variations -- some much more dramatic than others. More importantly, the elevation at these vineyards is ridiculous, with drastic temperature variations.  
Production is simple, classic, and Burgundian in style (I know...sigh!): the grapes are grown organically, using only bordelaise mixture and organic fertilization - mostly dung.  Vinification follows the same lead: maceration-fermentation lasts 10-15 days, followed by malolactic fermentation and aging in oak - 25% new - and bottling around 18 months later.

For those who have been shopping with us for a while would know, these are some of our in-store favorites. There are very few producers with wines in their line up, from almost next door vineyards, with such distinction in their make up. A must try for any person seriously interested in terroir, Sicily and the world in general: 
  • 10% off Case Discount
  • Wines set to arrive end of April/Early May
  • Pricing below is 750ml followed by 1500ml
  • Disclaimer: Apart from the village wines, I haven't tried the 2017s. My notes are based on my experiences in drinking these for the last decade. There are further no scores for these. 

Grand Crus

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Pre Phylloxxera (Limited)

Newsletter Price: $99.99, $199.99 
Due to scarcity, I have not had the chance to try this wine in this vintage or most of the others. It is one of my favorites in vintages past and a must for any cellar with supreme ageing capability. The story goes like this: "In front of the cellar at Terre Nere within the Calderara Sottana vineyards are two parcels that have survived phylloxera.  They are over 130 years old and are planted in their original rootstock.  In 2006, Marco decided to vinify these parcels separately. Yields are a ridiculously low 4-5 tons per hectare, with a total production of just 500 six-packs. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak barriques and tonneaux.  The wine is bottled after 18 months of oak aging."

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Calderara Sottana 
Newsletter Price: $54.99, $109.99 
The Calderara Cru is composed of two vineyards, totaling roughly 15ha, at an altitude of 650-700m.  A small portion of Calderara is pre-phylloxera, the rest is 40-50 years old. The soil is extremely rocky volcanic ash overrun by black pumice and solid volcanic rock. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration lasts 10 to 15 days; malolactic fermentation and maturation are carried out in oak.  After 18 months the wine is bottled without filtering.
From vintages past, all about the pine and menthol here––don't think taxis, think stretched limos with Tom Hanks and his friend in the movie Big. Wild flowers and a firm red cherry brightness. Polished, firm and filled with finesse.

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere San Lorenzo (Limited...blame Wine Spetcator for their top 100 list)
Newsletter Price: $59.99, $119.99 
The Etna Rosso San Lorenzo is from 4 hectares of vineyards in the same named district in the town of Randazzo. The vines are more than 70 years old and the altitude is 750 meters above sea level, the soil is almost pure volcanic sand. The estimated production is about 60 hl. The terroir in contrada San Lorenzo is originated by lava flows and volcanoclastic deposits related to the explosive activity of the the Ellittico eruptive center, which dates back from 60,000 to 15,000 years ago. Although very young by geological standards, the soils from the Ellittico eruption are the oldest superficial strata in which one may plant on Etna. The reason is simple: millennia of lava flows have buried all older soils, leaving, in fact, only very small and rare parcels of Ellittico soils. On the northern slopes of Etna there are four or five Contrade that have terroir from the Ellittico. Three, however, have mixed soils, blending soil from Ellittico of igneous nature with alluvial soils of sedimentary nature due to the overflowing of the Alcantara river. Only two Contrade out of hundreds and hundreds are “pure” terroir Ellittico: Calderara and San Lorenzo.

Premier Crus

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Feudi di Mezzo
Newsletter Price: $44.99, $89.99 
Easily the quickest to come around; softest and most ready to drink, but then counter intuitively, the flavors are always dark, deep and powerful. Firm and intense still containing lots of finesse at a philosophical level where Nerello Mascalese does a deceptive dance. Earthy and lots of wild tobacco!

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Moganazzi
Newsletter Price: $44.99
First vintage for this new cru made with younger vines. No one knows much about this wine other than is supposed to be one of the lighter styles amongst the crus and aged in the same nature as the other ones. 

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Guardiola
Newsletter Price: $44.99 
At 800-1000m on the north side of Mount Etna, the Guardiola cru is one of the highest vineyards in Europe. The vines are almost all pre-phylloxera with the exception of a few which have been individually replanted. Training is traditional gobelet with tight spacing, steep and terraced, which means the vineyards have to be worked by hand.Spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak. The wine is bottled after 18 months of oak aging. In my humble opinion, this is the most ethereal of the bunch with soft kirsch essence protruding out like a soft lamb on February snow. Mint, flowers and sage blow over and out. Balanced and full of finesse. 

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Santo Spirito
Newsletter Price: $44.99, $89.99 
The two vineyards in Santo Spirito were the last plots acquired by Terre Nere, located adjacent to Guardiola’s northern boundary, and lower in altitude, as its slopes descend toward the Alcantara valley.  Composed of 98% Nerello Mascalese, 2% Nerello Cappuccio from 40-100 year old vines grown in deep volcanic soils. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak.  The wine is bottled after 18 months of oak aging. Gorgeous, crisp and crunchy with fine sophistication and warm tenderness. Full embodiment of Etna terroir with scrumptious and tangy flavors.

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Etna Bianco `le Vigne Niche-Calderara Sottana`
Newsletter Price: $34.99
100% Carricante grown in volcanic ash soils speckled with black pumice and solid volcanic rock at an altitude of 600-650 meters above sea level.  Soft pressing, low temperature fermentation in French oak barrels of a capacity of 5 and 10 hectolitres. Malolacting fermentation and maturation in French oak barriques for 10 months followed by finishing in the bottle for 8 months.

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Etna Bianco `le Vigne Niche-Santo Spirito`
Newsletter Price: $34.99
100% Carricante grown in deep, soft and dark volcanic soil, rich in volcanic ash at 700-750m above sea level.  Soft pressing, low temperature fermentation in French oak barrels of a capacity of 5 and 10 hectolitres. Malolacting fermentation and maturation in French oak barriques for 10 months followed by finishing in the bottle for 8 months.

Village Wines

2018 Tenuta delle Terre Rosato
Newsletter Price: $24.99
All from fruit in the Calderara, Guardiola, and Feudo crus, this is a salmon-pink rosato with the high-toned aromatics and ashen terroir of Mount Etna. Fresh nose with good and dense Sicilian minerality;  smoke and stone notes, dried cherry, strawberry and orange peel flavors. 

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Bianco
Newsletter Price: $24.99
60% Carricante, 25% Catarratto, 10% Grecanico, 5% Minnella from vineyards located on the northern slopes of the Etna volcano at 600-900 meters above sea level.  After harvest at the beginning of October, the grapes go through a soft pressing and low temperature fermentation in stainless steel. Lacy and floating. Ripe Asian pear, saline and mineral, Lime, acacia, peach and spice. Quenching and mouth watering. 

2017 Tenuta delle Terre Etna Rosso
Newsletter Price: $24.99
Great introduction. Medium bodied and fleshy with delicious scents of cherry, plum, rose petals and sea minerals. 
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