Nerello Mascalese will forever be connected in my mind to Sicily and more specifically Mt. Etna. Not so much because it is, along with the white grape variety Carricante, the signature red grape of the Etna DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), but because the striking natural beauty of Mt. Etna. Several years ago we spent three weeks traveling around Sicily. We spent half of our time on the eastern side of the island and it seemed no matter where we traveled the majestic Mt. Etna commanded my attention. Even from many miles away a plume of smoke was often evident.
We made a point of ordering Etna DOC wines in restaurants and visiting local wineries. It was during those winery visits that my palate became so memorably imprinted with the flavors, weight and texture of Nerello Mascalese. It was the combination of what can be a relatively light-bodied red wine with brilliant acidity and often grippy tannins that caught my attention. It’s a style of red wine that naturally suits my palate.
All of these wonderful memories came flooding back recently when we received a bottle of Tascante Ghiaia Nera Nerello Mascalese as a tasting sample. I couldn’t help but wonder if the wine would live up to my memories.
2015 Tascante Ghiaia Nera Nerello Mascalese, Sicilia — translucent ruby-garnet in the glass. Generous aromas of ripe raspberries and cranberries combine with dried alfalfa and hints of cedar. Ripe raspberry and cranberry flavors gain complexity with earthy, smoky flavors in the background along with black pepper, dusty minerality and juicy acidity. Tannins are firm and drying. The wine is relatively light bodied and the flavors are medium+ in length. 13% abv. SRP $20
Tascante is located on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna and is a relatively recent project of the Tasca d’Almerita family best know for their Tenuta Regaleali located in the middle of Sicily southeast of Palermo. According to John Szabo, MS, in his excellent book Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, the name Tascante is a combination of Tasca plus Etna spelled backwards.
This delightful wine is made from relatively young Nerello Mascalese vines, planted between 2004 and 2007, at 600 meters on the north slope of Mt. Etna. The terraced vineyards are located in the contrade of Sciaranova and Piano Dario near Randazzo. A contrada (contrade is plural) is a way of identifying vineyards or groups of vineyards by their location.
After a six-day maceration and fermentation the wine was aged in 600-liter Slavonian oak barrels for 18 months followed by aging in the bottle for four months.
Serve this delightful red wine with roasted or grilled chicken or pork. It is the perfect warm-weather red wine (it’s also very nice slightly chilled), but I would drink this wine regardless of the season. We enjoyed it with pasta puttanesca, which isn’t exactly a light meal, and it worked perfectly.
And yes, this wine met or exceeded my expectations and memories of tasting the variety in Sicily. Pete was pleased as well and observed, “If we didn’t have so darn much wine, I would look for this one.” But when we do run low on wine…
Thanks to the folks at Jarvis Communications for the staycation.