July 11, 2020
RESTOCKED: The Elusive Debut from GAJA and Sicily’s Indigenous Nerello Mascalese and the Volcanic Slopes of Mt Etna. Discover These Wines of Burgundian Elegance at $49.94! Just Five Cases!
“The Etna boasts two reference point producers and a number of emerging growers. Along with Andrea Franchetti, proprietor Marco de Grazia (Tenuta delle Terre Nere) continues to make compelling wines that set the standard for the Etna.” - Antonio Galloni, Vinous
There’s a new sheriff in town, and some new names should be added to Galloni’s statement about Etna! Angelo GAJA has joined forces with Alberto Graci of Graci, one of Sicily’s respected icons, and even more eyeballs are turning to the terroir-driven wines of Mount Etna. Two weeks ago, we preached about the exciting and ancient wines of the region with the new releases of Terre Nere, and we continue today with the highly-anticipated debut of the 2017 IDDA Etna Rosso. At $49.94, this is a worldwide first taste of Sicily’s explosive terroir from the Piemonte maestro, Angelo Gaja. A mere 50 cases are arriving in the US, and the elusive wine will only be available from a handful of merchants throughout the country.
It is difficult not to be attracted to Italy’s wealth of antique varietals. These grapes are capable of transporting enthusiasts to Italy with one stunning sip, while delivering unrivaled value. It is not surprising that the ancient Greeks called Italy Oenotria, “land of vines.” One such grapevine that would have appealed to them is Sicily’s Nerello Mascalese from the high altitudes and volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. If you follow Italian wines, you probably have heard comparisons of this grape to Burgundian Pinot Noir and a young Barolo. There is some truth to calling Nerello Mascalese the “Burgundy of the Mediterranean.” Many of the high-toned expressions are often translucent in the glass with juicy, inviting red fruit, herbaceous and mineral undertones, supported by firm tannins and refreshing acidity.
To IWM’s thinking, what separates the IDDA Etna Rosso from some of its neighbors is that it’s truly a more Burgundian-like expression than Barolo on the palate. This comparison is not about single vineyards and crus, but, rather, what is happening in the glass. The tannins are so well-integrated that the wine is seamless — elegance personified. We had this wine the other evening, and it was stunning – hands down a wine that would captivate fans of Burgundy and Oregon Pinot with its satiny texture, but married with Sicily’s earthy and red fruit-driven profiles for an expression that is uniquely Italian.
At $49.94 and the best price in the country, this is a wine that will undoubtedly start conversations — it’s a rare and tremendous crowd-pleaser. And that is before you even say the four-letter word “GAJA!” Grab these today, as these wines are in extremely limited allocations!
Featured Wines: Debut from GAJA and Sicily’s Noble Varietal
The 2017 vintage marks the highly anticipated debut and first release for IDDA. In fact, it is the first inaugural release from GAJA in more than eleven years! Gaja and Graci’s joint venture marks the third effort from outside of Piemonte for Mister Barbaresco. As for Alberto Graci, one of the most acclaimed and talented wine growers in Sicily, his name has long graced the shelves of IWM. The Gaja & Graci effort on the southern slope of Etna is a marriage of one person’s deep knowledge of Sicily’s terroir and another’s experience with Italy’s most noble varietals. “Idda” (ee-duh) means “she” in the Sicilian dialect, which is a term of endearment and expression of awe that Sicilians use to refer to Mt. Etna. To Sicilians, Etna is more than a mountain; it is a breathing being with her own identity and personality, a quick-tempered, capricious, yet protective mother on whom they depend each day.
Additional Notes and Reviews:
“The Etna is one of Italy's most fascinating emerging wine regions. High altitude vineyards, volcanic soils, ancient indigenous grape varieties in Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio and a rediscovery of the uniqueness of these vineyards are among the reasons for the spectacular growth in interest the Etna has seen in recent years.” - Vinous
2017 GAJA & Graci Etna Rosso
Christopher Deas, Italian Wine Merchants: “In the words of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, ‘I say goddam!’ This is among the most striking new wines I have tasted. The new project from GAJA and Graci on the island of Sicily is exciting stuff for the wine enthusiast, and this maiden expression lives up to all the hype and expectations. This is 100% Nerello Mascalese from the GAJA & Graci Biancavilla vineyard — the first plot of land they purchased on the lesser-known southwest slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna. The soils of Biancavilla are among the oldest of the entire Etna DOC. The 2017 provides a lighter and friendlier interpretation, a departure from some of the more austere and tannic expressions of Nerello Mascalese from the region. Right from the pull of the cork, the aromatics scream ‘Sicily’ and reach across the table to pull you in. But here is the catch: on the palate, the tannins are not aggressive, even in the challenging 2017 vintage. While I would not use the words ‘Barolo’ or ‘Nebbiolo’ in the descriptor, I would say ‘Burgundian,’ even ‘Oregonian’ to capture the wine’s texture and flavor. The silky elegance is stunning, but there is also a succulent, concentrated core that suggests more to come. For now, you can expect nuances of wild strawberries, raspberries, black cherries, sarsaparilla, citrus, smoke, and wild herbs. This is one of the most elegant Sicilian wines I have tasted; the classic dry finish is there, but it is not forbidding. High toned, elegant, concentrated, succulent, savory, and delicious. One of my favorite recommendations of the summer.”
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All my best,