2020 I Custodi delle Vigne dell’ Etna, Pistus, Enta Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy.
Coming from intense volcanic sites on Mount Etna, the Pistus by I Custodi, with vineyards that are up at close to 2,000 feet with sandy and mineral charged soils that is full expressed in the wine with loads of spice, mineral and smoky elements to go with beautifully seamless red fruits, making for fantastically pure terroir driven ruby hued Etna Rosso. I have always found a nice tension and a medium bodied palate here in this wine, showing an exciting intensity in the glass, with brandied cherries, dried flowers, iron mineral tones and red spices leading the way, with this vintage being no exception. This is pretty and authentic Nerello Mascalese based Etna at its best, that adds plum, candied orange peel, anise, clove, flint, sanguine and lavender accents as it opens up. The silken textural experience is joyous, and its natural feel is compelling to say the least, and while sincerely structured it has always supple quality, no wonder many say the best of Etna Rosso(s) have the class of Burgundy. This wine sees about 20% whole clusters with partial stem inclusion, depending on vintage, that are in some years included. The fermentation, maceration and aging done exclusively in the stainless steel tanks, which lasts, as the winery notes, about 22 months in total before bottling, no wood is used on this offering, everything you taste is the transmission of place.

I Custodi is run by Mario Paoluzi and relies on I Vigneri, led by Salvo Foti, and his team of Etnean winegrowers, plus Ciccio the mule to tend the vines and make the wines in the ancient way of Etna, as it has always been on Mt. Etna for centuries, without synthetic chemicals, as Paoluzi puts it, in respect of the people, the classic stone terraces, the landscape and the nature. This dark ruby Pistus Etna Rosso, mainly organic and young bush vine Nerello Mascalese, around 80% or so, and typically close to 20% of Nerello Cappuccio, from grapes that are grown in a steep terraced parcels with the classic lava black soils, making for a wine that transmits a real or true sense of place. The Salvo Foti inspired I Vigneri I Custodi delle Vigne dell’ Etna wines, both red and white, are all outstanding efforts and what I tasted of their latest collection of releases were some of my favorites at the last Slow Wine tasting in San Francisco that I attended a few years back now. As mentioned many times here, Salvo Foti, the godfather of Etna wines, has influenced a generation of wineries and winemakers in this region, which has led to a remarkable rise in quality and sex appeal in these Etna wines, everything he and his team does seems utterly brilliant and I Custodi is a producer to follow, again both the reds and whites are stellar here, and I do recommend getting a few of each if you get the chance, especially the Carricante based Etna Bianco DOC “Ante” Mount Etna, which is excellent and exotic stuff, as well as this Pistus Etna Rosso, and the cellared aged Sæculare, Etna Rosso DOC Riserva.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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