Sicily's Mount Etna has more than a millenia of winemaking history under its belt, but it has really been in the past few decades that the wines have become recognized on a world scale. The native red a white varieties are unique even to the rest of Sicily, and the volcanic soils have prevented the spread of phylloxera among many of the vineyards, so the wines can claim a much more ancient character. Though a relatively new producer (in the grand scheme of Etna, anyway), Tenuta di Aglaea is a specialist in the Nerello Mascalese grape, with several of their small terraced vineyards sitting among those owned by the famous Passopisciaro winery. There are only enough of their two wines to be counted in the hundreds of cases, but thanks to the efforts of a local importer we not only have good access to the wines, but are priced incredibly well to boot.
Despite being a traditionally lighter weight and lower alcohol variety, Nerello has an intense dried red fruit and savory aroma that brings loads of presence to the glass. You can almost smell the black lava soils behind the smoky cherry and flowers, with a complex and ever-changing subtlety that makes it understandable why many reviewers will compare these wines with great Burgundy. On the palate the tannins are incredibly fine and dusty (again drawing comparison to Burgundy) but also persistent, which can also be compared to Nebbiolo in the Langhe/Piedmont. The fruit is lessened on the palate as well, allowing more savory notes and dried spice to come through. These are wines that are blowing up across the country on restaurant wine lists as the acidity and fine texture play very well with subtle fine flavors, and it will do very well at your dinner table as well when you're looking for something a little more creative.
We featured this producer's red wine from this series in our August Select Six, an exciting new addition to our expanding South African selection brought in by one of our better local importers. The winery was founded on the property of the old post office in the Stellenbosch town of Raithby, and the names for all their wines refer to philately with either historically significant stamps or in this case color terminology. This beautiful little value combines the two white grape varieties that have come to represent South Africa's wine success the best, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. The Sauvignon Blancs combine the best qualities of the juicy and more modern New Zealand versions and the more traditional and crisp Loire ones, while the Chenin Blancs deliver a round yet dry character that occasionally hint slightly to the honeyed aromas made famous in Vouvray. Brought together here, they deliver fantastic freshness and complexity that is genuinely exciting for the price point. Sauvignon Blanc is the dominant variety in the blend, and the grassy citrus aroma reaffirms that, with maybe a touch of melon emerging as it opens up from the Chenin Blanc. In the mouth the Chenin becomes much more noticeable, providing richness on the palate and calming some of the more assertive edges of the Sauvignon Blanc. A very pleasant cocktail or light seafood/vegetable wine.
The Best of the Best.
We offering free tastings on these wines in the store every Thursday and Friday, and a 10% discount off the retail price through the duration of the day. Come on by and give them a try!