Saturday, April 11, 2009

Selection of the Month: 2000 Calabretta Etna rosso V.Q.P.R.D. Sicily

How do I choose my "LeDom du Vin: Selection of the Month"

Every month, amongst all the wines that I taste, I'm desperately searching and trying to find that rare gem. That, somewhat, unusual Jewell lost among many imitations, semi-duplicates and other "faux", due to the fact that they are only so few of them in this world, lost in an ocean of passable wines and other fermented grape juices. That inestimable treasure that will blow my mind, and thus will become my selection of the month.

That wine, worthy of becoming my Wine Selection of the Month, usually refers to a wine that delivers rare and unprecedented features and extraordinary appeal, from the attractive color aspect to the expressive nose and finally the balanced and harmonious palate.

Compare to other wines, it possesses more elegance, finesse, subtlety, balance, harmony, length, depth and especially complexity in every way. It also offers mountains of layers of aromas and flavors, and is especially characteristic (or sometime uncharacteristic) from the Terroir, the varietal, the region or the unique style of a specific area.

In most cases, these few incredible wines trigger only one reaction, every time I taste them: "WOW! What a Wine! This is really good! Can I have another glass? Please?"

This month, once again, I found one that deserve the rewarding title. Therefore, here is my selection for April 2009:

2000 Calabretta Etna Rosso V.Q.P.R.D. Sicily
Suggested retail price $24-$28
Distributed by Polaner Selections in NYC

From the north-eastern part of Sicily, this wine was made from vines literally planted, between 300 and 900 meters above sea level, on the slopes of the active Mount Etna Volcano.

Calabretta winery was born by the desire of Massimo and his son Massimiliano Calabretta to carry on the family's three generation tradition in Sicilian grapes growing. In 1900, Gaetano Calabretta and his wife Grazia bought the first vines on the slopes of Mount Etna and started to sell in the North of Italy. After the Second World War, their son Salvatore and his wife Concetta extended the winery and bought new vines. In 1997, Massimo and his son Massimiliano, the third generation, re-organized the winery and began to sell worldwide.

Massimiliano Calabretta, a part-time college professor at the University of Genova (or Geona), is an old-style-traditionalist winemaker. He is carefully following the same steps as his forefather, being the third generation of a winegrower and winemaker family that has been crafting wine in this region and the same cellar since 1900. Given that most Sicilian wines are pretty much made in a rather modern style, finding a more traditional-style wine from this region made with indigenous grapes, is quite exciting.

More over, to add even more interest and uniqueness to this wine, most the vines are 70-80 years old, with a good portion ungrafted. They are organically farmed and the resulting wines are certified organic.

The indigenous Nerello Mascalese grape variety, primarily blended with a bit Nerello Cappuccio, constitutes the secret ingredients of this unique wine. The soil types, which also bring minerality, richness and complexity to this wine, are a combination of black volcanic ash and sand (which are fine and almost silty), intermingled with lots of lava and rocks (which offer very good drainage).This Etna Rosso was aged for 6-7 years in large Botti (Slavonian large oak barrels) before being bottled. The slopes of the Etna, mostly facing south, offer fantastic exposure for the vines to obtain full ripeness, topping the richness and complexity from the soils.

2000 Calabretta Etna Rosso V.Q.P.R.D. is the current vintage from this winery. Already in the nose, this wine is incredible. I could spend a great deal of time just to inspire my brain with its exquisite wild dark berry, earthy, spicy, floral bouquet. It almost as an old Tempranillo-Syrah-Nebbiolo-like attitude and profile, quite difficult to define, but attractive. The nose develops aromas of dried dark cherries, blackberry, floral, tar, licorice, smoke and hints of ashy/volcanic soil, earthy tones. Given the high elevation and big diurnal temperature shifts, the wines retain a great freshness that nicely carries the fruit and the mineral, earthy notes through out the juicy, earthy, meaty, smoky and lovely textured finish. This wine has definitely a good grip in the finish with present yet integrated, almost grainy tannins. What a wine! Full of character, depth and personality!

It is not everyday that you can taste a wine aged-at-the-winery (except may be for most Rioja's Gran Reserva and Reserva Especial, a few Ribera del Duero like "Vega Sicilia", may be a few Barolos and a few super-Tuscan, etc...), perfectly ready to drink, grown and crafted from volcanic soil, at this price. This unique, aged wine is a terrific value, especially under $30 (compared to some of its "pairs" from other regions in Italy, Spain or even France).


LeDom du Vin

FYI: Polaner also have the 1999 vintage in stock, which is apparently quite too. I'll let you know soon after I have tasted it.

Info partly taken from the distributor: and from the winery:

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