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THE 12 WINES OF CHRISTMAS, 2014 Terre Nere Cuvée delle Vigne Niche Calderara Sottana Etna Bianco

Beth Ribblett

A fun way to introduce you some of our favorite wines in the store that we believe would make great gifts!

The majestic and awe inspiring Monte Etna - Sicily Trip, October 2009

The majestic and awe inspiring Monte Etna - Sicily Trip, October 2009

Our 3rd wine of Christmas hails from one of the most exciting wine regions on the planet...

The first time I tasted a wine from the Etna, I knew that something very special was happening in the eastern part of Sicily.  We were in New York in late January of 2009 for an Italian Trade Commission wine event and we needed a bottle of wine for our friend Lisa's birthday party. I had become intrigued by the region while researching the wine producing areas of the island for our wine and culinary tour later that year, but there was nothing from the Etna in any of our wholesaler's portfolios.  In fact, like me most had never even heard of the region until I started inquiring about the wines.  

So, needing a bottle of wine to take with us to a little party, we popped into a shop in the East Village, that actually had a decent selection of Sicilian wines and there on the shelf was a wine by one of the producers I had been researching, Terre Nere.   The 2006 Etna Rosso was under $20, which was very reasonable for anything coming from the area, so I was really excited to try it.  And needless to say we were all impressed as it was lush (a prominent quality in the 2006 vintage) and easy drinking, with a purity of fruit and hints of dark cherries, tobacco and wild herbs, it had an earthiness and texture reminiscent of Burgundy but is distinctly Sicilian. Made with Nerello Mascalese, a native grape to the region, I was hooked and needed to know more about this region.

Our friends at Uncorked had access to the Terre Nere wines and got samples brought in for all of us to try - I still remember standing at our bar tasting the entire line up with Nick Selby and how impressed we were - impressed enough for Uncorked to take the risk and bring in whatever the importer could allocate for Uncorked's annual portfolio tasting.  And arriving with the wines was the producer himself Marco de Grazia, considered one of the pioneers of the region. You can imagine how excited I was when Marco agreed to host an intimate, seated tasting of his wines at the shop as well as a few others he is importing.  Soft spoken, loquacious and extremely passionate about the region, it was wonderful to hear about his approach to wine making on the Etna, to taste the wines with him and hear his stories about what makes this area so special and still one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world today.

Marco De Grazia presenting at Swirl

Marco De Grazia presenting at Swirl

And while it is the reds from the region that first captivated me and receive the most praise from the press, the whites are truly extraordinary.  The indigenous Caricante with its crisp acidity, racy minerality and aromatic, pure, and lemon, tart apple and white peach fruit can be reminiscent of great Chablis when in the right hands.  It has excellent ageing potential, copes well with the searing summer heat and cold winters on Etna, and loves the black lava soils.  So it is the Terre Nere single vineyard white that is my 3rd wine of Christmas, but I do adore his regular Etna Bianco as well.

2014 Terre Nere Cuvée delle Vigne Niche Calderara Sottana Etna Bianco -The Calderara Sottana is a cru vineyard, producing the highest quality grapes at a high elevation. By far the rockiest cru in the appellation, in the roughest parts you can’t see the soil for the black volcanic pumice carpeting the vineyards. "Niche" is the local dialect for small plot and this particular plot is on the north side of the Etna at an elevation of 600-900 meters.   Large used French oak barrels are used for 10 months of aging and then another 3-4 months in the bottle before release.  Yellow flowers, minerals, lemon zest and a touch of smoke on the nose. Densely packed, bright and juicy, offering orchard fruit, flint and herb flavors. Finishes vibrant, complex and long. 

This is a super small production wine that would work best for a collector or anyone who loves high quality, high acid white wines from one of the most unique terroirs on the planet.  Great for a Chablis drinker or Loire Valley wine lover who wants to venture out in to new and exciting territory!  Under $35 and a steal for the level of quality here.

The amazing black volcanic soils of the Etna

The amazing black volcanic soils of the Etna

Also in the shop from Terre Nere:

  • 2014 Terre Nere Etna Bianco
  • 2014 Terre Nere Etna Rosato
  • 2013 Terre Nere Etna Rosso
  • 2013 Terre Nere 'Guardiola' Etna Rosso