Zabu Il Passo Nerello Mascalese - Nero D'Avola 2014
The estate was set up by Valentino Sciotti (the man behind Gran Sasso and Pipoli) and like Gran Sasso, he has crafted some great value wines wines from the young estate. Its great to be afforded insight into how good Sicily and Nerello/Nero can be at such a reasonable price.
Nerello Mascalese (neh-REHL-loh-MAHS-kah-LEH-zeh) is an indigenous variety to Sicily, Italy. In the east coast province of Catania, between Messina and Cataniamost, Mount Etna is the marvelled as producing the most reflective wines of the unique terroirs surrounding its namesake stratovolcano, a tall, steep, cone like volcano made of layers of hardened lava, rock fragments and volcanic ash. While Mt Etna is prone to the odd explosive eruption its lava is a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid, meaning it doesn't tend to get far before hardening.
Nerello Mascalese is planted on the steep slopes of black volcanic soils. Interestingly the area is covered in snow during winter and is used by skiers. The sub-regions of “The Etna” are broken into Contrada, unique zones based on aspect, elevation, climate and soil -- quality of lava too.
Jancis Robinson, famed UK Master of Wine described the fruit: “Nerello Mascalese ripens late, and grapes are grown up to a cool 1,200 metres on the slopes of Mount Etna so that they may not be picked until the end of October or even the beginning of November. The variety certainly holds its acid well and has a certain very obvious nobility, and lovely gentle tannins, to it, making the wine good to drink young and able to age too.”
Eric Asimov wine columnist New York Times said of it: “They are fragrant with the aromas of fruit and earth. The flavors suggest both sweetness and bitterness without actually achieving either. Yet in this tension between the two comes a thrilling ability to quench, intrigue, refresh and invite another sip. Structure comes from a combination of tannins and acidity, with the acidity playing a more prominent role than, say, with French reds. And they are transparent, with the best versions able to convey incremental differences in terroir.”