Sicily Day 5 - Graci, Mount Etna
Friday, and our early morning departure due to the necessary route change route after of the rains, meant that we travelled along the beautiful northern coastline of Sicily, through Cefalù and taking in the Aeolian Islands before turning inland towards the slopes of Mount Etna and to the Graci Winery in the shadow of the volcano.
Established in 2005, Alberto Graci returned from Milan to his homeland and the winemaking tradition of his grandfather, by purchasing the Acuria property near Passopisciaro. At 600m above sea level on the northern slopes of Etna, it falls within the DOC boundaries of land between 350m-850m above sea level. The volcanic soils are full of nutrients and with the cooling effect of altitude to combat the Sicilian sun, Graci has focused on the indigenous grapes of the area - Nerello Mascalese (with a little Nerello Cappuccio) and Catarratto and produces only 60,000 bottles each year from their three parcels of land.
Their first vineyard is Arcurīa. 18 hectares planted with Carricante, Nerello Mascalese & Catarratto, the natural amphitheatre of this vineyard allows a cooling breeze. The lower part of the slope has more soil and is ideal for the thin skinned Nerello Mascalese and its lower juice content and higher alcohol make it ideal for Rosé wine.
Their second vineyard is a recent purchase but with vines aged between 60-80 years old, the wine from Feudo di Mezzo promises to be special, but won't appear before 2017.
The third parcel is Barabecchi - the highest altitude at 1000m above sea level, the vines here are over 100 years old and not harvested until November!
Our tasting room was the wonderful 160 year old barn/winery, complete with old wooden pressing equipment and huge 200Hl ancient vats, which were last in use as recently as 1988! The 6 modern concrete 100 hectolitre stainless steel tanks stood alongside and 7, 42hl vats made from French, Slovenian and Italian oak lined the opposite wall.
Our first wine to taste was the 2014 Etna Bianco from their Arcurīa vineyard. With a blend of 70% Carricante & 30% Cattarato it was very refreshing and smooth with good minerality and a very long finish and at just 12.5%, a very easy drinker. Next was the 2013 Etna Rosso from the upper slopes made with 100% Nerello Mascalese. Kept in the concrete tanks for between 20-22 months, it produces a light colour with a fruity nose and good acidity, but despite being 14% still well balanced.
Our final wine was the 2013 Etna Rosso Cru, which we tasted pre-bottling 'en primeur'! From their Arcurīa vineyard and made with only Nerello Mascalese, the wine is aged in the wooden vats for 2 years then in bottles for 5 months before release. Another light coloured wine with floral and red fruits aromas and flavour, and a silky mouth feel with a very long finish.