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
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
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
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
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