|Old Nerello Mascalese Alberello Staked Vine|
|I Vigneri Bringing in the Harvest|
Federico told us that he lived in Milan where he worked as the sommelier at the Michelin-starred restaurant called Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia. Salvo had telephoned Federico the night before to tell him that his grapes were ready to be harvested the next day. Federico had taken a flight from Milan at 7:00 a.m. to be on Etna in time for the vendemmia. He plucked a plump bunch of the Nerelli grapes and savored them as we conversed. Federico told us that he was a custodian of this vineyard and that he would never have bought it without first entrusting it to the care of Salvo Foti and his masterful vineyard workers who know this land and climate. Joining Salvo, Maurizio, and the other harvesters among the vines, Federico picked up a forbice and began to harvest his own grapes.
|Federico Graziani and his Nerello Mascalese Grappolo|
After the harvest and a celebratory lunch at a trattoria called San Giorgio e il Drago (Saint George and the Dragon) in a former monastery in the nearby town of Randazzo, we drove Federico back to his rental car. Federico had lovingly carried two bunches of Nerello Mascalese with him from his vineyard. He gently placed the grappoli in his backpack for the flight back to Milan that afternoon. Federico smiled as he told us how he planned to share his beautiful Sicilian fruit with the husband and wife owners and guests of Aimo e Nadia that evening.
At this year’s Vinitaly, there was a horizontal tasting of the red wines of Mount Etna. Sixteen producers presented their Etna Rosso wine from the 2010 vintage to a packed hall of wine journalists, buyers, and fellow winemakers from around the globe. It represented the formal coming-of-age of Etna red wine on the world stage. Each Etna Rosso was made from the two indigenous red vine varieties of Mount Etna, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. While we had previously visited almost all of the estates represented on the stage that day, we were there to witness (and taste!) the debut of Federico Graziani’s Profumo di Vulcano. Federico, who is also a well-respected wine writer in Italy, introduced his wine by expressing his appreciation for the opportunity to be a custodian of this special land. His wine showed the pure ripe expression of a high elevation Nerello Mascalese. One by one, the other fifteen wines each also expressed the elegance and vibrancy of Etna’s fruit.
This summer Mount Etna was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. In awarding this designation, UNESCO recognized that Etna’s “exceptional volcanic activity has been documented for at least 2,700 years”. The culture of wine in Sicily also reaches back at least 2,700 years. From a land which for centuries shipped its wine to mainland Italy (and continental Europe) to be blended anonymously with the wines of the north, the wines of Mount Etna – with the help of Federico Graziani, Salvo Foti, and I Vigneri – are beginning to reveal the beauty and complexity of this ancient land.
|Mount Etna from Randazzo|