When it comes to the wines of Etna Rosso, the north side of Mount Etna garners much of the attention, particularly because of how the northern slopes’ conditions yield wines of structure and longevity. But in recent years, I’ve cultivated a particular kinship with the red wines from the southern slopes. Slightly softer but still complex and shape-shifting in their own way, southern-slope Nerello Mascalese (with occasional splashes of Nerello Cappuccio, of course) seems to adapt to different cuisines at the table a little more quickly. Take for instance, this wine from Terra Costanino.
While the north slope might have bigger names and more options on the U.S. import market, don’t sleep on the south slope.
It features a subtle swirl of aromas that is forthcoming and which serves as an appetizing invitation. Let’s start eating, the black-fruit and resinous-herb-like tones seem to inspire. With a taste, the wine veers more silky than structured on the palate. Yet its sly potency cannot be ignored. It seems to come from within, and it provides the necessary balance for a versatile food wine.
Coming from a vineyard of volcanic sand ranging from 1,475 to 1,800 feet above sea level, Terra Costanino’s Riserva is the only Etna Rosso DOC from the tiny Contrada Blandano, a small designation surrounding the community of the same name just north of Viagrande. (The only other Contrada Blandano wine — Terra Costanino’s Etna Bianco — is equally thrilling).
Terra Costanino was established in 1970, well before the modern wave of wineries on Etna. In their early days, the wines were still made in a palmento on site, an ancient and primitive winemaking structure made of stone, which is a common sight on Etna’s slopes. Another ancient practice at the winery is the co-plantation of grape varieties, with Carricante growing side-by-side with Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio (despite this, the grape varieties are harvested separately). In recent months, I’ve been exploring whether such biodiversity in a vineyard — even among grape varieties — leads to more resiliency against maladies and climatic events. I’d be curious how this works with the native grape varieties of Etna.
Nearby are two of my favorite wineries in all of Italy, let alone Sicily: Benanti, whose reputation is well-known, and Ciro Biondi, who is a bit of a sleeper on the scene. Biondi’s “San Nicolo” Etna Rosso belongs in the upper echelon of red wines from the area, if you ask me. While the north slope might have bigger names and more options on the U.S. import market, don’t sleep on the south slope.
2017 Terra Costantino Contrada Blandano Etna Rosso Riserva
Etna Rosso DOC (Sicily )
Grapes: Nerello Mascalese (90%), Nerello Cappuccio (10%)
Opinion: ★★★★ 3/4
Value: As Expected
A beginner might like … exploring the unique textural hallmark of a volcanic red wine. Soil and the way it influences the taste of a wine is often an abstract concept for beginners, and rightly so. In fact, it is probably one of the most over-discussed topics in wine just because of how subtle the influence is. (How important soil is to a winemaker, that’s another matter). It is a different matter for wine tasters, however, when it comes to volcanic wines. Etna Rosso is one of the more extreme instances, and the mineral texture — some call it “salty” — that registers on the finish is a quality you won’t find in clay, limestone or granite. This wine from Terra Constantino is a great example for such a clinic.
A wine obsessive might like … hunting for the herbaceous aromas of this wine. Mint? Garrigue? Rosemary? Who knows? But there is certainly a lovely quality to this wine’s nose that will remind you of resinous plants.
Note: This wine was provided as a sample by Terra Costantino’s PR Agency. Learn more about our editorial policies.