Nerello Mascalese Wine Guide
Nerello Mascalese is the king of red grape varieties of Etna, indeed we can safely say that the mythical Sicilian volcano is its throne and here it is at ease. So much that it finds hard growing outside the confines of this corner of (lunar) paradise.
But what’s so special about Nerello Mascalese?
Its characteristics of finesse and elegance, first of all: it is a graceful, salty, mineral wine, with medium acidity, but with silky tannins and strong balsamic and Mediterranean scrub suggestions.
It is never a muscular, jam-packed or too intense and fruity wine, indeed its fruit, based on berries and cherries, is austere and subtle. Herbaceous, spicy and floral notes bring further elegance.
But these particular qualities of elegance are enhanced by the mineral and obsidian-rich soils, or rather by the layers of lava that alternate on the slopes of Etna, with the vineyards reaching up to 1000 meters above sea level. So the wine becomes sharp, pungent and the temperature range between day and night does nothing but emphasize the aromatic freshness of the grapes.
Once, surely the wine was more rustic and edgy, with all the vineyards scattered around crawling on the ground, while today most of the Etna winemakers lean towards the alberello (little tree) training system. More practical to manage and that also allows a good concentration of the vines.
After all these years of progress (but we could say awareness of the potential of this territory) today Nerello Mascalese is one of the most fascinating and elegant Italian red wines.
History and etymology of Nerello Mascalese
There are no big mysteries or epic stories of wine-travelers who have sailed the seas to bring him to Sicily. It comes from the city of Mascali, not far from Catania, from which the name.
The bouquet of Nerello Mascalese
Small red fruits, earth, licorice, cherries in alcohol and then comes this crazy mineral push, balsamic suggestions with anise, eucalyptus and mint, light spices and a clean ethereal finish. It is pure poetry. There is a certain lunar scent in the background, of scorched earth, but it is not too strong. It is almost a tactile sensation perceived on the palate.
What does Nerello Mascalese taste like?
Salty and pungent mouth, never soft or too structured, the heat is tempered by minerality and earthy flavors. It flows gracefully but it’s super dry and sharp. As said, freshness is not its strong point, but this does not mean it is a slow or fat wine.
Drinking Nerello Mascalese is a great experience, it’s like taking a dip in Sicily: the pines, the rocks, the sea, the sun that burns the skin sprinkled with salt, these are its flavors and scents.
And perhaps it’s time to stop considering Nerello Mascalese just a nice niche wine. Now the producers have clear ideas and the courage to produce fine and elegant bottles. It is time to put it on the list of the best Italian wines alongside Amarone, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aglianico, and Montepulciano.
Nerello Mascalese food pairings
Grilled meat, stew, noodles with porcini mushrooms, roast pork, Indian or Thai cuisine, lamb kebabs, gnocchi with Bolognese, hamburgers, baked lasagna, truffle risotto, pasta Amatriciana and Cantonese rice.