Rich but very rocky soil in the vines at Calabretta

Etna, part 2 - Calabretta


One of the charms of our time on Etna this April was that each of our winery visits was very different, ranging from the super-clean, laboratory-like cantina at Cornelissen, to the funky but very cool operation at Calabretta. They’ve very cleverly figured-out how to make due in tight quarters – the place is full to bursting with wines awaiting release after 10-12 years of aging. Calabretta is the only Etna producer to age this long (their current release is the 2002), which offer us a unique view on the aging capacity of Nerello Mascalese (short answer: it can age very well!).

The tall tank in the background is probably 20-30 feet high!

At Calabretta all the farming is organic. The wines are fermented in steel (with indigenous yeasts) and then aged in very large older wood botte for up to several years depending on the vintage. They are then transferred to enormous resin tanks before bottling. The resulting wine retains the freshness and vibrancy of Nerello Mascalese, with very attractive older-wine aromas – some more forest-y tones added to intense Etna minerality. Coming from 60-80 year-old vines in the sweet spot on the north side of Etna, from ground rich in minerals from decayed volcanic lava and ash (where many of the best producers have their vineyards), the wines have unmistakable Etna terroir. They are uncompromisingly old-school, and the Rosso is certainly one of the great wines of Etna.









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Calabretta 2002 Etna Rosso

Earthy and mineral, age lets the cherry fruit recede to the background; the tannic structure is very finely grained. Even with the age and ripe vintage, the wine has very good acid and aromatic lift. Savory and energetic, with real depth, and a bit rustic; this is a steal when compared to most other good wine from Etna. 

PS – After some years of selling Calabretta here, it was gratifying to read last February about Etna in the NYTimes. Calabretta was #1!

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  • red
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Calabretta 2009 Etna Bianco

Mostly Carricante, the primary white grape on Etna, with a little Minella Bianca, which is said to add welcome acidity to the wine. In any case, the wine has lovely fresh lime, citrus-oil, and ashy mineral aromatics; the texture is quite lush and well balanced by zippy acidity. We drank a bottle with a typical Sicilian antipasto, including vegetables, meat, and fish; we agreed that the wine will probably continue to age very well, but it’s damn delicious now.

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  • white
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