The first time I was introduced to this grape, my work mate said its name always made him think of a disease. And yes, it does sound like something you’ve picked up after a long tropical voyage. You pronounce it “Nair-rello-mass-kal-azay” – see what I mean?
But lets set that aside, because this is actually a grape that has a lot of charm. For lovers of delicate reds like Pinot Noir this could be your favourite new discovery. It has gorgeous bright raspberry red perfume, that then mingles gently with complex smoke, spice and herbal flavour to taste.
In wine-geek kingdom it is become quite the “thing”. Possibly because it grows on the volcanic soils around Mount Etna. These intensely mineral soils are the perfect bed for growing grapes, the ash provides good moisture content and the wine tends to pick up that fantastic complex smoky character. And isn’t it great to say you are drinking a wine made on a volcano…
The wine-making in that region has really developed in recent years. Nerello can be a bit of a rustic grape with grainy tannin and only light fruit. But development in how the grape is grown, and made into wine, is bringing its wines up to the quality of great Pinot Noir.
Sicilian reds are commonly thought of as being big and heavy, but this grape shows they can be as light as a feather and elegant in flavour. Plus it ages beautifully. I hope you agree that this is one of those reds it was really worth taking an adventure on.
Most Etna Rosso reds made with this grape have Nerello Cappuccio as a small proportion to the blend. This other local variety is more soft and fruit forward, adding a bit of filling to the wines body. Nerello Mascalese is a late ripening grape which retains its acidity well, a very useful combination for a warm climate grape.
Pinot Noir, Poulsard, Trousseau, Zweigelt, Gamay, Corvina
Sicily: Etna, Faro
Tuna, sardines, roast pork, meatballs, spicy tomato sauces, mushroom ragu, grilled peppers