2014 Cantine Russo, Etna Rosso DOC “Contrada Crasá” Sicily, Italy.
All new to me, Cantine Russo and their outstanding single cru, or Contrada, dark ruby/garnet Etna Rosso really hit the spot with my hot and spicy pepper pasta on a cool Fall evening and kept entertaining throughout the evening with pretty array of medium bodied red fruits, silky tannin, flinty mineral and saline infused licorice. This Contrada Crasá, from the 2014 vintage opens up gracefully and is generous in the mouth gaining depth and length in the glass, while keeping its natural edginess, acidity and its earthy/savory/stony elements, which adds a sultry tension and a pleasure response, making for a very compelling wine. There’s additional spiced and dusty plum, brandied cherry, grilled orange and dried raspberry notes, along with rose petals, cinnamon and red pepper flakes to be found in this complex Nerello Mascalese based Etna Rosso, everything has really come together very nicely here and it should continue to a rewarding wine for another 5 to 10 years. The native Nerello Mascalese grape, which is named after the Mascali area in Catania where the grape is thought to have originated and looks to have been, thanks to recent DNA testing, a natural crossing between Sangiovese and an unknown varietal. While Nerello Mascalse is the star here, Nerello Cappuccio It is widely used in the Etna DOC, mainly as a blending grape, as seen here, it helps add color and provides a kick of alcohol with its riper sugars. The Etna Rosso Contrada Crasá by Cantine Russo impressed me and I look forward to following this winery in future vintages as well as checking out their Carricante based Etna Bianco and their unique Brut sparkling wine!

The Cantine Russo’s family-run winery dates back to 1860, when it was founded by Francesco Russo, though It only started bottling its own wines in 1956, it is one of the oldest on Etna and is considered one of the most beautiful too, focusing on the high elevation plots of vines set on the volcanic soils that give these wines their terroir distinction. The flagship vineyard of Cantine Russo, the Contrada Crasá site, with 30 to 40 year old vines, is located up at close to 700 meters above sea level on Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano, which has a cooling influence and has stony lava based mineral rich volcanic soils. The winery and vineyards of Cantine Russo are located on the prime northeast side of Mt.Etna, which is where the most balanced and deep wines are produced. For this wine, a blend of indigenous Nerello Mascalese, 80%, and Nerello Cappuccio, 20%, the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed, macerated and fermented in vats and the wine, according to the winery, is then aged 18 months in stainless steel tanks, after which the Etna Rosso matures a further 10 to 12 months in mostly used French oak before bottling and resting another six months in the cellar. Etna Rosso wines are still some of the most sought out wines of Sicily and enthusiasts love the nuanced flavors, these wines are sometimes compared to Burgundy for the delicacy and transparency, though distinctly their own animals with that smoky mineral driven terroir character. The sense of lightness and satiny feel make them very sexy wines and the touches of leather and balsamic notes make them delicious, as mentioned, with a wide range of foods, and this one is well worth searching out.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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