2021 Azienda Vinicola Calabretta, Rosato, Terre Siciliane IGT Rosé, Sicily, Italy.
Calabretta’s Mount Etna wines are a traditional collection of offerings leaning heavily on Nerello Mascalese, the main red grape of the volcano, and this bright deep ruby hued Rosato is one of my favorites with its spicy, smoky and mineral driven terroir character making it uniquely delicious. There is a to of personality and substance to enjoy here with a medium body and layered fruit including strawberry, grilled orange, sour cherry and plum water as well as the wet shale, roasted herbs, dried flowers and anise accents. More of a light red than a classic Rosé, this pink Nerello Mascalese by Calabretta has structure to hold up to robust cuisine and though, enough delicacy to be enjoyed with sea foods and is refreshing with a burst of energy and natural acidity, it goes great with grilled octopus, fish stews and or Moroccan dishes. Massimiliano Calabretta’s wines are distinctive and old school, interestingly he, as his importer Polaner Selections, notes, compared to other Etna producers, he releases his wines late, only after long aging in large casks (Botti) and again in the bottle, many of his releases are often six to eight years behind the other Etna vintners. Also his wines were once label Etna Rosso or Etna Bianco, but now are humbly labeled as Terre Siciliane or IGTs, because he likes to do things his way, often not following the norms of the appellation. For his Rosé, Calabretta uses grapes from younger vineyards, planted between 2005 and 2006, in Calderara and Randazzo, on rocky volcanics, it sees a soft de-stemmed pressing with a short maceration and is fermented and aged exclusively in stainless steel vats before bottling to preserve its vibrancy. This is a property that does things their own way and has produced some spectacular wines over the last decade or so, it is a label to search out, not always easy to find, though Rare Wine Co. usually has a good amount, the chase is worth it.

The Calabretta wines, mostly from 80+ year old vines scattered throughout many of Etna’s top sub-zones with lots of them on their original roots, all within he DOC of Etna Rosso in northeastern Sicily, with various terroir nuances with the northern facing plots being much cooler. The Nerello Mascalese,is as mentioned the main grape here, along with a bit Nerello Cappuccio interplanted in vineyard sites. It is also known and very unique that Massimiliano has a small vineyard of Pinot Noir too, which I didn’t know, is a grape that has been planted on Etna since the 1800’s. The vineyards of Calabretta are situated at between 300 and 900 meters up on the slopes of Mount Etna, which is Europe’s most active volcano, seen from almost the entirety of the island. The soils here are a combination of black volcanic ash and sand which are fine grained, well drained and almost silty, with lots of lava rocks, with the vines usually being steep and terraced in classic fashion. Massimiliano Calabretta, a part-time college professor at the University of Genova, says his wines are inspired by the wines of Barolo, and while most critics find Nerello Mascalese to be more Pinot Noir or Burgundy like in style, though with the heavy volcanic spiciness, Calabretta is more keen to make his in a more Nebbiolo like way, extracting more tannin and then maturing them longer. A rarity in the Calabretta lineup is the old vine Bianco made from mainly Carricante, that is interplanted with a tiny amount of Minella Bianca, a grape that helps for its acidity, which is aged in a combo of tank and neutral wood and is wildly good white that I try also not to miss. The signature wine, Calabretta’s Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie or just VV, which I have been lucky enough to try a few times, is from 80 year old vines set on black lava soils and gets primary and secondary fermentation in stainless before being aged in large Slavonian oak casks for between 36-42 months, it is an awesome, iconic and monumental wine that should be on your bucket list, with this Rosé being a good tease to get you primed.
($20 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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