Week 26 – Nerello Mascalese

Tasting Notes

We drank: Etna Rosso £11 Marks and Spencer

Emma says: “I made Nerello one of our 52 grapes just to test Andy’s supremo pun skills. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with for our newsletter.

On a more serious note, I really do feel this grape is justified to be part of our 52. I fell in love with it last year on a trip to Sicily. It forms the major part of most wines labelled “Etna Rosso” which is an amazing wine region sitting on the slopes of Mount Etna. Volcanic soils appear to be the current theme on our adventure, given last week was the Greek grape Assrytiko which is grown on the volcanic island of Santorini. In Sicily the volcano is still active, and I think wines from this region definitely have a mineral intensity which would suggest there is some sort of interaction with the soils. I always get a pleasing whiff of smoke from an Etna Rosso. Andy would probably say that is me imagining things into the wine again.

I chose a wine this week that I’m really familiar with having imported it for my work. The Nicosia winery is one of the most established in the Etna region, a lot of wines from this region are seriously expensive and they offer a really great value option. It is a relatively small region and is now becoming quite trendy on the wine scene, hence prices are going up.

I tasted the wine on potentially the hottest day of this year so far, so I gave it a bit of a chill in the fridge which seemed to really work and bring out the fruit in the wine. The first scent I got was dark and brooding with wood smoke and medicinal herbs.  Nicely followed by fragrant raspberry and a hint of wet clay. All in all, there was lots going on. The palate had an equally dense flavour, it was somehow tannic and yet light in feel which I really liked. The flavours brought more bright red fruits with that smoky note pointing to the volcanic soils the grapes are growing on, but this dimension  wasn’t  fierce, rather gentle allowing the fruit to stand out nicely; making it an elegant yet complex glass of wine. As a Pinot lover this really appeals to me as a wine that has that lightness in touch, making it infinitely interesting to drink.

We had it with a simple pasta ravioli supper and it worked really nice, a red that isn’t too dominant in flavour for that kind of meal.”

Andy says: “This week marks the half way point on the 52 Grapes journey. It’s all downhill from now on, and things should get easier as we’ve all learnt so much, haven’t we?

So Nerello. I’m not looking forward to writing the newsletter, as I’m going to have to think of a ‘pun’ for this grape. I say ‘pun’ as I’m using the term loosely.

To the wine! Smell wise, I got old leather sofa, shoe polish, and lots of high tones. It was actually quite pleasant. Emma insists it also smells like a smokey volcano, but I must disagree. I’m wondering if she’s ever actually been near a smoking volcano. The label says it’s ‘floral’, and I couldn’t disagree more, but that’s probably because my definition of floral doesn’t match that of a wine expert’s. Colour wise, I’m plumping for Pale Garnet, based on the excellent wine chart over at Wine Folly.

I need to work on this description, but it’s what I call ‘thin’, and this one was ‘quite thin’, like when there’s not enough Ribena left to make a full strength glass. Quite a bit of a burn when swallowing, but I’ve been getting that a lot lately so perhaps I should see a doctor. This wasn’t particularly high alcohol (13%), so perhaps it was the acid causing that sensation.”

Buying Guide

Nerello Mascalese is the main grape that features in the Etna red wines from Sicily. It is rarely featured alone so if you find a wine labelled Etna Rosso or a Sicilian Red with that grape featured on the back label that will work just as well.

6 thoughts to “Week 26 – Nerello Mascalese”

  1. Wine – Alta Mora Etna Rosso DOC 2015 (Waitrose £20)
    Bottle says – stuff in Italian

    I’ve been putting this one off, due to the hot weather, but one must make sacrifices I suppose!
    The colour is a lovely medium garnet (the colour chart Andy mentioned is really useful; it makes you sound clever and stuff).
    The first impression on the nose was of soft leather, tobacco, black pepper and spiced plums. The taste revealed blackcurrants, black cherries and slightly bitter almonds on the finish. The tannins were soft but noticeable; I would like to try this one again when the weather inevitably cools back down again.
    I did indeed get a hint of smokey volcano, but it was more Eyjafjallajökull than Karangetang, if you know what I mean.
    This is definitely a wine I may never have tried due to its relative rarity, but I am glad I did. It reminded me of a pinot noir ‘turned up to 11’; everything was a little more ‘in your face’, but the wine remained approachable, soft and inviting. Another one to add to the rapidly growing shortlist of wines to buy.

  2. M&S Etna RossoAroma – earthy, leather, plum & blackcurrant
    Great colour
    Taste round dry fruit, smooth, black pepper, rich fruit, & peppery lingering aftertaste
    We had Dover sloe , new potatoes, & asparagus, and it accompanied this meal beautifully.We loved it

  3. Fortuitously, I too tried the Nicosia Etna Rosso 2016 from M&S. I’m a fan of Italian reds so I enjoyed it a lot, although I didn’t pick up on the volcanic smokiness.

    In appearance it was deep garnet. On the nose I got cherries and other red berries which opened out into a more jammy and floral bouquet over time. I also got a bit of balsamic and a touch of something savoury and unami-esque.

    To taste I found it dry with medium plus body. I got jammy red berries, sour cherries, a hint of all spice and earthiness at the back end. Medium tannin and a decent length.

    I liked it and it got better after being open for a good few hours.

  4. I also tried an Etna Rosso, the Cantine Paolini Etna Rosso, a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cap, picked up from Corks of North St, it being the cheaper of the two options at a boat-pushing £15.99 (ouch). Luckily, it was bloody lovely.
    My notes:
    Sparkling clear ruby/garnet red
    Punchy nose of perfumed glacé cherries, bitter chocolate and a profound ‘minerally freshness’ (couldn’t get any closer to nailing that one).
    The palate is dense and sort-of coarse in texture (as opposed to voluptuous or silky, but in a good way here, not in a ‘did this winemaker know what they were doing?’ way). It’s absolutely riddled with flavour. Glacé/Morello cherry intensity as with the bouquet – really dense and perfumed fruit – smashed through with this bright mineral core (totally at odds how to describe this element. Emma’s ‘wet clay’ doesn’t seems apt here, but that might be because I envisage dark, porous volcanic soil sparking with ore deposits). Anyway, this wine’s phenomenal, quite frankly. Lovely clean tannins and peppery spice on the finish.
    The official tasting notes say:
    “Aromas of blackberry jam, blueberries, plums are layered with licorice and tobacco. The palate is elegant and balanced with soft tannins.”, so I’m way off, but hell, this isn’t an exam, I know what I got. Either way it’s wine-wine. Sorry, I meant win-win.

  5. Fortunately I recently bought the same bottle from M&S last month. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes. I do remember it had lots of flavour, without being too powerful!

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