2019 Tenuta di Fessina "Erse" Etna Rosato
2019 Tenuta di Fessina "Erse" Etna Rosato

At Tenuta di Fessina, an Etna Rosato with Personality

500 Words (Or So) on an Age-Worthy Rosé from the Volcano's North Slope

4 min read

Yes, it is everything Etna this week on Opening a Bottle: a massive new First-Taste Guide to Etna Bianco, plus a compendium Tasting Report just for paid subscribers on building a cellar around aged Etna Bianco. A few weeks back, I had a report on Top 10 New Etna Rosso wines to check out. Phew: that’s a lotta lava wine. While I should pat myself on the back for being comprehensive, deep down, I still (somehow!) feel like I’m coming up short: that’s because I’ve neglected two of the four wine categories coming from this singular Sicilian Denominazione di Origine Controllata. Etna also makes intriguing spumante wines (but you really have to hunt for them), and textural, precise and personality-driven rosato.

With its remarkably appealing color, lovely aromatics, and fine structure, “Erse” is a rosato that simply pleases on all levels.

One of these rosé wines that stood out to me is the 2019 Tenuta di Fessina’s “Erse” Etna Rosato. Coming from a small 1-hectare vineyard in Rovitello on the north slope of Etna, the rosato is unique for the substantial amount of Nerello Cappuccio present in the final wine. This indigenous variety differs from Nerello Mascalese — the king red grape on Etna — by having larger berries and an earlier budbreak. (I heard several producers decry the variety’s difficulties in the vineyard because of this latter trait). Parsing which Nerello is lending what attribute to the taster is a rather aimless task, especially for a rosato wine. However, this is the beauty of Etna wines: the final percentages of the blend hardly ever matter because the fingerprints of terroir are so strong.

My focus on Etna was not in comparing the rosato wines, so I did not indulge in nearly a comprehensive tasting of them. However there are certainly enough traits in this beautiful wine to lend credence to such an exercise. It has a vivid orange color, and a silky texture that holds up well to a variety of serving temperatures. The tones are refreshingly tart and lightly sour, conveying flavors similar to cherries, pomegranate and orange citrus peel. And there was also an herbal edge to the wine that seemed to evolve as the night wore on.

Old-vine Nerello Mascalese vineyards at Tenuta di Fessina on Mount Etna's north slope
The gnarly old vines at Tenuta di Fessina — one of the most spectacular vineyards I’ve ever toured. ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

There are some wine writers who outright dismiss the rosé category altogether (I used to be one of them). And there are others who fervently believe it should be taken as seriously as reds, whites and sparkling. I fall somewhere in the middle. When the day is done, rosé still needs to satisfy a basic desire for joy, even if it has complexity, longevity and terroir nuance. As a category, reds and whites do not have that kind of universal pressure of expectation. But when you lead with color and entice the eyes first, as rosé always does, well its pretty hard to reframe the conversation.

With its remarkably appealing color, lovely aromatics, and fine structure, “Erse” is a rosato that simply pleases on all levels.

2019 Tenuta di Fessina “Erse” Etna Rosato

Tenuta di Fessina's 2019 "Erse" Etna RosatoEtna DOC (Sicily )
Grapes: Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese
Alcohol: 12.5%
Opinion: ★★★★ 3/4
Food-friendliness: Impeccable
Value: Very Good

         

A beginner might like … the no-questions-asked refreshment when chilled, followed by the oh-this-is-kinda-complex thrill once it comes up in temperature. For me, this is the opposite of so many of the meagre rosé wines on the market, and yet on Mount Etna, the substantial structure generated from Nerello Mascalese (and Nerello Cappuccio, in this case) often leads to well-shaped wines.

A wine obsessive might like … comparing this rosato to other Etna terroir. Is 12 hours of maceration enough time to extract the unique character of Rovitello’s soil and climate? For me, there is certainly enough substance here in this wine — and in the rosé wines of other producers like Graci, Tenuta delle Terre, Pietradolce, and even Donnafugata — to ponder the question with a comparison tasting.

 

Note: This wine was provided as a sample by Tenuta di Fessina’s importer upon request. Learn more about our editorial policy.

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