Etna Nerello Blends

10 top picks from a recent blind tasting


These wines, generally from the Etna region, were blind tasted during my recent visit to Sicily. For several reasons Etna is proving to be one of the most exciting regions in Italy, and the fact that Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio are the driving forces behind these wines leads me to think we should be paying attention to these varieties and the blends they are used in.

As these wines were tasted blind it’s worth pointing out that some disappointing performances are simply attributable to the undeveloped state some of these wines were in. In many cases these wines will improve in the bottle, as Nerello-based blends have a proven track record for aging well.

Not all of these wines are currently available in all markets, as some were presented as pre-release samples, but the best producers have good track records and Sicily’s climate offers them generally consistent high quality fruit from which to make great wine year in and year out – with some exceptions, such as 2009, when significant rains caused distress among both the vines and the winemakers.

2008 Firriato Cavanera Rovo delle Coturnie Nerello Mascalese Nerello Cappuccio, $30

Pine balsam on the nose with orange oil, incense and soapy flower notes lend the core of raspberry fruit a decidedly citrusy aspect. A touch heavy on entry and slightly creamy feeling, though it works very well with the core of transparent, bright bitter cherry fruit. This is juicy in the mouth with growing inner mouth perfumes and a fine cleansing finish. The finish here really shows excellent clarity and drive with superb persistence to the berry and lightly peach skin fruit. 93pts

Find out more

2009 Benanti Serra della Contessa Nerello Mascalese Nerello Cappuccio, $50

Fine soil tones on the nose are accented with hints of white pepper, lending a spicy complexion to the red fruits here. There are fine, if subtle, complicating notes of white mushroom and ash adding a savory character as well. Elegant in the mouth with excellent intensity of flavor on a rich, medium/full-bodied frame. The fruit does have some overt wood sweetness, but this is finely balanced with fine-grained tannins and integrated acidity supporting it perfectly. The finish is long and precise as well. 92pts

Find out more

2009 Benanti Rovittello Nerello Mascalese Nerello Cappuccio, $40

Downright ashy and mineral on the nose, with floral accents to the wild cherry fruit and a touch of wood. Light and elegant in the mouth with wonderfully energetic and expressive strawberry fruit that is clear and precise. This is mouth cleansing and ends with some menthol-laced strawberry and spice flavors. An excellent foil for food. 91pts

Find out more

2009 Tenuta di Fessina Erse Nerello Mascalese Nerello Cappuccio, $30

Some sweet graham cracker notes on the nose cover lighter orange oil, green spice and floral notes, though with air this turns quite floral with burning minerality. Quite strict in the mouth with a rigid feel. The flavors are clean, if a bit low amplitude with a lovely wild cherry tone and some strawberry top accents emerging in the mouth. The finish is firm and tense with vegetal and citrus accents to the red fruit and a fine lingering mineral note that enhances the astringent red fruit. I would love to spend more time with this. 91pts

Find out more

2008 Palari Rosso del Soprano Nerello Mascalese Nerello Cappuccio (Nocera and other indigenous varieties), $35

Really soil driven on the nose with mineral, crushed dry floral tones and a background note of dried meats. Nicely fresh in the mouth and quite fruity in a big, powerful way. The dark cherry fruit is deep and intense with a clear, brisk character that leads to a long finish with a hint of older wood adding complexity. Great purity and clarity. 91pts

Find out more

1 2 next

Slideshow View

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Wines of Argentina
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    545727 211

    Excellent note and very good selection of wines of Etna. When I was in Sicily to visit, I fell in love with Nero D 'Avola until they drank the Etna Rosso also seduced me. So I can say that I have two loves in Sicily!.
    I'm surprised that the selection is not the "Petra Lava" ( An exceptional wine from Etna, Sicily.


    Apr 21, 2011 at 4:43 PM

  • Snooth User: luca chevalier
    Hand of Snooth
    533661 2,535

    ...Great Greg now you have to try "a' Puddara" from Tenuta di Fessina!
    (Carricante 100%)....
    You may also find very interesting some wines from Tuscany from Villa Petriolo....(same winemaker of Fessina)....if you want i can tell you more, but remember when you were talking about "Bevibilità" or "drinkability"...

    Apr 22, 2011 at 2:31 AM

  • Snooth User: lvcm
    562523 1

    If you will pardon my spelling due to the long time that has passed since I savored this excellent Sicilian wine.. I believe its SARAPRUTTA ?? or the likes of it. PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME ON THE spelling AND YOUR INFO. ON THIS WINE THAT KEEPS COMING BACK TO ME LIKE A "Lost Love Affair" !! one of your most ardent fans. Lou

    Apr 22, 2011 at 7:59 AM

  • Snooth User: bill2810
    94571 22

    Pardon me for raining on the parade folks but, Greg, these descriptions of wines from a 2nd tier region made from 2nd tier grapes is as pompous and overly-inflated a presentation as the one you did on how to purchase wine in a restaurant.

    Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Sicilian wines but these are good, solid drinking wines, some aspiring to something better. They're not 93 pts - 88pts "dry floral," "white pepper" "powerful finish" wines. (By the way, what the hell is the taste difference between white pepper and black...especially when hidden in a bottle of grapes?!!).

    I sense the bombastic descriptions and outrageously high rankings must be designed to support the ridiculous prices for these wines. Nerello Capuccio wines uniformly selling at $50, $40 and $30+ per bottle?! As the Italians would say, "Incredibile!"

    Apr 22, 2011 at 8:29 AM

  • Snooth User: luca chevalier
    Hand of Snooth
    533661 2,535

    ...Its Duca di Salaparuta...but this is the name if the producer, i don't know if they have something from etna.. you will maybe find somethig Here....

    Apr 22, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network