Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 3, 2019

2017 I Vigneri di Salvo Foti, Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy -photo grapelive

2017 I Vigneri di Salvo Foti, Etna Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy.
Known as the godfather of Mount Etna, Salvo Foti from Catania, is one of Italy’s most iconic vignerons, and who’s group I Vigneri is the keeper of traditions and committed to holistic grape growing, mostly with native varietals, on this majestic volcano, a focal point of Sicily and it’s wines. Foti crafts a tiny amount for his own label while being the Island’s hottest consultant and mentor, making wines for the likes of Gulfi, Benati and Biondi to name drop a few of his past and current clients, mostly using the indigenous Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio black grapes along with a smattering of Alicante (Grenache) and some almost unknown local grapes that have been here so long there isn’t any recorded names or enough vines to care about DNA testing! The farming is almost 100% organic and holistic with some elements of biodynamic principles, such as the ancient reverence to the lunar cycle.

The project called I Vigneri (that Foti started) takes its name from an association that existed in the Etna region way back in 1435, the historic Maestranzi dei Vigneri, which was a group group of vineyard workers that greatly influenced the wine culture of the Mount Etna and the success of the wines in those times. Today, I Vigneri is a partnership between Salvo Foti, other vine experts and local grape growers who bring their long experience, among these unique vines, to their work, both in the vineyard and the cellars, with the expressed purpose to make wines that show the inartistic soul of the place and highlight the harmony between man and nature, these are soulful and authentic wines with the spirits of the past and present being clearly transmitted into the bottle.

The Foti Etna Rosso comes from the northern side of the volcano, at almost 2,300 feet in elevation these are among the highest altitude vineyards in all of Europe, it has a completely different climate, much cooler in winter and with a huge change in day to night temperature with soils that are broken or decomposed lava stone of varying depth mixed with sand. According to Foti many of the vines have been rehabilitated old vineyards or terraced contradas, with some vines over 100 years-old, planted in high density at 10,000 plants per hectare in the old school head trained or albarello(goblet) system, the only system Salvo considers for producing great fruit under the special climatic conditions of Etna. These sites require lots of manual labor and the use of mules and horses, as no tractors can be employed here, but it is all worth it when you taste the wines, especially those of Foti, which have the magic and emotional taste response usually reserved for elite Burgundy wines.

The 2017 Salvo Foti Etna Rosso, surprisingly dark and generous, is wonderfully forward and almost juicy with racy cherry and wild plum fruits, mild tannins, beautifully silken on the medium bodied palate with an under current of red spices, mineral tones and floral notes adding fennel, flint and lingonberry as this Nerello Mascalese based red opens. There is a joyous youthful expressiveness now, but with time a fine structural side looks to be ready to take over, in the same way as a Nuits-Saint-Georges can do, plus a touch of the exotic presents itself with incense and Asian spice lingering on and on here, this is absolutely seductive.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive