Calabretta Nerello Mascalese "Vigne Vecchie" IGT 2014 (Sicily, Italy)

Calabretta Nerello Mascalese "Vigne Vecchie" IGT 2014
(Sicily, Italy)

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Nerello Mascalese & Nerello Cappuccio


Comes from a seven hectare vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna in the Calderara Sottana. Average age of the vineyards is between 60-80 years with some plants over 100 years old, some ungrafted -- on original root stock. A blend of nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio.

Black volcanic, stony soil.

Manually harvested in mid-October. Many vines on original un-grafted rootstock.

Soft pressing after destemming. Fermented in stainless steel for 5-7 days with pumping over -- then in wood. Full malolactic fermentation in the first year.

Aged in large Slavonian oak casks (50-70HL) for 36-42 months.

Massimiliano Calabretta holds more in common with some of the stalwarts of traditional Barolo production than he does with most of his fellow Etna producers. He ages his wine in large neutral oak botti and holds his wine back for years in bottle before release. There are no recipes but some vintages age for as long as 12 (between cask and bottle) years in the cellar before release. With the 2004 vintage, Massimiliano decided to begin bottling what had formerly been his Etna Rosso as Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie. In the past the DOCG board would sometimes reject one or two of his botti saying they were not "typical Etna Rosso" -- in those cases he was forced to declassify that wine even though he felt it was up to his own standards. Rather than take a chance to continue be forced to declassify wine, he decided to bottle everything as IGT so that he could make his own decisions accordingly to his own taste - and not be forced to change his style.

95% Nerello Mascalese, 5% Nerello Cappuccio. Calabretta’s vineyards are located nearly a half-mile above sea level in the black volcanic soils of Etna’s north slope, between Randazzo and Castiglione di Sicilia. There, Calabretta farms roughly seven hectares of mostly 70- to 80-year-old vines—many of them ungrafted—on stepped terraces supported by stone walls. Historically, the family had sold its wine in barrel to restaurants and to private customers, many of whom traveled long distances to pick up their wine. But in 1997, third- and fourth-generation father and son Massimo and Massimiliano Calabretta decided to bottle their best wine under their own label to ensure the winemaking traditions of their family and Etna would not be lost. Slow Food’s Slow Wine guide has described Calabretta’s style as “a thousand miles away” from other Italian wines, but the gap might be better measured in time, since the estate seems stuck somewhere in the 19th century. The vineyard practices sound modern but are in fact rooted in the past. They avoid using chemical pesticides or herbicides, and they harvest by hand, starting around the second week of October. Fermentations are carried out exclusively with wild yeasts. Considering such traditional approaches, it’s not surprising that Calabretta’s wines are so reminiscent of the compelling Brunellos from Montalcino’s Soldera, Cerbaiona, and Livio Sassetti, or the many great traditional Barolos of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Their NV Cala Cala is produced from younger Nerello vines and is all about drinkability (Cala Cala means “Gulp Gulp” in the local tongue). Bright red fruits with underbrush and tilled earth put a chill on this wine and you’re in heaven.

Ratings & Reviews

94 Points - Vinous (2012 vintage)
The 2012 Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie takes things to a darker, earthier yet ultimately thrilling level, as crushed black raspberry and plum sauce are complemented by hints of exotic brown spice, tobacco and underbrush. This gains freshness through notes of white smoke and roses that emerge with time in the glass. It’s silky, verging on fleshy and quite potent, ushering in textural waves of ripe wild berries and sweet spices, yet balance is maintained through a core of brisk acidity. This leaves a saturation of primary purple and blue-toned concentration upon the senses, becoming youthfully chewy through the dramatically long and lightly structured finale. There is no sign of the 16% abv that’s stated on the label, as the 2012 Vigne Vecchie comes across as completely harmonious, but in need of another year or two of cellaring. (Drink between 2024-2030)