Tenuta delle Terre Nere Cuvèe delle Vigne Niche Etna Bianco 2012
The wines of Etna have in a remarkably short time become quite well known and respected in the industry – but focus has been almost exclusively on the red wines. One of the top modernist producers – Tenuta delle Terre Nere, which used to be in this market, makes some really outstanding reds. It may be their top white wine, however, that is the most intriguing.
Made from the indigenous Carricante grape, this is qutie unlike other examples I’ve had such as the varietal labelled wine from Planeta. Rather, this wine has a waxy texture, pours a deeper yellow than you might expect and boasts honey, nuts and floral notes moreso than citrus or orchard fruits or even minerality. If Etna reds share a spiritual bond with Burgundy, then this white does so with Grand Cru Chablis.
This focus on 100% Carricante distinguishes the Cuvee delle Vigne Niche from the entry level Etna Biano, which is a field blend of five indigenous varieties. The wine is made from a blend of multiple parcels of old vines (25-60 years) grown on the northern slopes of Mount Etna. Marco de Grazia’s approach was inspired by his tasting a 42 year old Carricante and marvelling at how a producer with no technology could make something so wonderful. He took this inspiration to craft a white wine to lay down for many years with minimal technological influence but for the barriques in which it is aged.
For those not familiar with Etna, it is a remarkable place. Stunningly beautiful it also has unique features that make its wines distinct. Being an active volcano is one, obviously having a big influence on the soils. The numerous active lava flows mean things are ever changing, including the mineral composition in the soils. Further, diurnal shifts at this elevation (400m to 1000m above sea level) are extreme: 30 degrees celsius.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere makes only 500 cases of this wine and it is extremely difficult to find. If you see it I highly recommend it for seafoods, vegetable based dishes and white meats. I very much hope the wines of Terre Nere return to this market in the future.
$72 USD, wine list at Juniper and Ivy, San Diego