After a fantastic tour around Etna today with my friends at Tenuta delle Terre Nere, we wrapped with a tasting of wines from the Guardiola vines from both Terre Nere and Passopisciaro: Same alcohol, same vintage, different expressions of the same Contrada. Sitting across the road from one another, the terroir was evident – both share an amarena cherry nose, balsamic notes; bright acidity from this high altitude; and structure from this lava spill. Picked October 20th, the Terre Nere has more structured and drying tannins, leathery and peppery notes on the palate, while the Passopisciaro, picked November 2nd, showed sweeter fruit and more supple tannins, alongside more pronounced acidity. A tasting from two stars of Etna I’ve wanted to explore for awhile, and I thank my friends for obliging.
My first harvest with Passopisciaro was for the whites on Mt. Etna in 2014, so I love revisiting this wine. We grow Chardonnay on volcanic soil between 820-1,000 meters (that’s 3,300 feet, folks) and go through the vineyards up to 20 times over the 2-3 week harvest period, through densely planted vines. It’s a fussy, even neurotic, approach to getting every bunch at its optimal moment of ripeness (read more here), but it makes for damn good wine. Texturally complex with its creaminess and minerality interacting, bright acidity, and at the moment singing with its rich fruit. It was perfect on yesterday’s first real spring day in New York.
I spent my first few days in Italy down on Mt. Etna, observing the harvest at Passopisciaro. Andrea Franchetti, its owner, showed me how the color of the leaves and slope of the hills could allow him to predict what would be ready first – the vines with yellowed leaves were already bare, the sugars directed to the grapes on the areas where the soil wasn’t as rich (the deeper the green, the later the ripening goes his approach); and where there were depressions in the vineyard, however slight, those grapes too were still left to ripen, while the edges of the rows on higher ground were already plucked. We tasted from plant after plant, and for the first time I could really understand how much a single vine could vary from its neighbor. Some were just on the cusp of ripeness, with sweet juices bursting in my mouth and the seeds easily falling apart, where as others still maintained a tart, green edge.