The Nerello is a true Sicilian, a child of Etna. Next to the Nero d'Avola, the Nerello Mascalese is the most frequently cultivated red grape variety in Sicily. Nevertheless it is little known. For years the wines eked out an existence as blending partners and were hardly exported. They were regarded as inconspicuous table wines. But they have potential for interesting wines of strong character. A good example of this is the Etna rosso. The still quite young DOC at the foot of the spirited natural force of Etna has caused a sensation with exciting red wines with good storage life, aromatic, high quality, rich in tannins and elegant. On the slopes of Etna the grape is cultivated up to high altitudes, up to 1000 meters above sea level. Here you can find vines that are over a hundred years old, still with their original roots, gnarled in the traditional alberello upbringing as bush vines, with weathered black trunks as dark as the lava soil. It ripens late, the harvest sometimes starts only in October. And there is another special feature: the phylloxera could not harm the Nerello. But the economic situation did. In the 1990s, Sicily was hit by the boom of Nero d'Avola and brought many wine consultants into the country, who recommended rather uniform wines, assemblages with Cabernet and Merlots and consorts. Many small winegrowers were not up to this, they gave up, cleared the land and sold their planting rights. The indigenous varieties almost died out. Fortunately, only almost. Meanwhile a rethinking has taken place, on Etna one thinks back to old values and old varieties. Today one gets advice from Piedmont or Friuli. The old grape varieties on their black lava soils will hopefully remain with us for a long time. Pleasantly different and independent, and with great potential for a new boom from bella Sicilia. And because La Famiglia is also important in wine: the Nerello is probably related to the Sangiovese grape, but this story has not yet been fully told.
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