Passopisciaro "Passorosso" Etna Rosso 2019 DOC
(Sicilia, Italy) - [VM 92] [DM 91]
Regular price $42.99 Sale price $42.97 Save $0.02
About the Winery:
In 2000 Andrea Franchetti decided to restore an old farm and cellars on the slopes of Mount Etna, an active volcano in northeastern Sicily. The winery sits at about a thousand meters of altitude above the small wine town of Passopisciaro in the district of Castiglione di Sicilia, on the northern slope of the volcano. His first task was to clear and restore long-abandoned terraces of ancient vines on the northern slopes of the mountain, replanting at a density of 12,000 vines per hectare on thin lavic soil. His arrival on Etna helped to initiate the renaissance of viticulture on the mountain and an international discovery of the wines of Etna. At Passopisciaro, he focuses on the native grape Nerello Mascalese and its various expressions of terroir and altitudes through a series of crus, as well as the varieties Chardonnay, Petit Verdot, and Cesanese d’Affile.
The high altitude, sun-drenched vineyards are idyllic yet a constant plume of smoke and the odd ash-filled belch present a constant reminder that Etna is indeed a volcano with attitude, given to relatively frequent lava spills. These spills devastate the landscape, yet each flow leaves a unique mineral profile, giving rise to the notion of various terroirs, here called contrade. The borders of the contrade reflect old feudal property lines, which are still mapped out on the local land registry. Franchetti respects and plays to the strengths of his chosen terroir on Etna, producing wines of remarkable complexity and individual personality. Significant temperature differences between day and night also play an important role, necessitating a longer growing period and this, in turn, contributes complexity and intensity, as do the profound mineral elements of the volcanic soils.
Passopisciaro produces 9 different wines, with six focused on the grape Nerello Mascalese. The wine Passorosso is a bright, holistic rendering of the grape that is unique and ever-present on the volcano, blending from different altitudes and terroirs. During the first several years of making wine on the volcano, Franchetti realized that once the Nerello grapes reached the cellar, they produced different wines depending on the district from which they came from; starting in 2008, he began to bottle the top sites separately, helping to usher in a cru system on Mt. Etna. These five Contrada wines — Contrada C, Contrada P, Contrada G, Contrada S, and Contrada R — each come from vineyards of different ages and are each on a lava flow with different minerals, grain size, and altitudes.
“Volcanoes are gloomy places, and when I arrived, Mt. Etna was even gloomier because it was an abandoned volcano. Wineries lay collapsed all over its slopes; stonewalled terraces disappeared everywhere up the mountain in the bushes. There was the misery of blackened streets and ashen churches in large old towns. These were the feelings I had in the winter of 2000 when I first came to Etna. It seemed crazy to restore vineyards so high up the mountain – above, it was erupting – but I liked that they were planted so high.
At the top of the steep Passopisciaro property looms a hump of black gravel. It’s where the lava spill from a big eruption in 1947 had stopped, caking up just before it could submerge whole terraces below it, vines, walls, and buildings: on Etna you can lose it all.
Here, it’s always very cold at night, even in August. During the day in the vineyards the lava powder penetrates in the skin and you get intoxicated, tired. The first wine I made was pale and meager, and I was discouraged. I planted other grapes; whatever is planted there the wine always tastes of citrus and camphor, without that generous body that you like earth to lend right away to a wine.
There’s no mold, no moss; the ground sparkles black like the night; the wine slowly becomes very elegant and strange. During the day a soft light penetrates everything and then there are starry nights; Etna has enormous poetry. Making wine, you have access to it. There isn’t Mother Nature here. You are conducting your viticulture on stuff that comes out of the terrible below.”
– Andrea Franchetti
About the 2019 Vintage:
A blend of ancient grapes of Nerello Mascalese from different vineyards located at different altitudes on the northern side of Etna. In general, the highest districts lie on more gravelly soils to coarser grain, while the lower ones on the finer and deeper soils composed of older lava flows, now oxidized and reduced to lava dust. This wine concentrates the characteristics of different terroirs in a single bottle to offer a global idea of a territory.
A late ripening year on Mt. Etna as well, the vintage was characterized by a decidedly cold spring during April and May, with a light frost over May 6 7. This persistent cold weather continued until the end of May without interruption, causing a significant delay in flowering, which itself continued until the middle of June.
June finally brought a gradual and constant increase in temperatures, with the chardonnay flowering first on the 13th, with subsequent fruit set, sparser this year. Then, toward the end of the month, we began to have incredibly high temperatures, peaking near 40 degrees Celsius (almost 104 degrees Fahrenheit); these heat spikes lasted until the end of September, allowing the vines to recuperate some of the time lost by the cold spring. This allowed us to begin thinning the berries at the start of August.
The Chardonnay harvest began later this year, on September 17th, and entering into October, we had an important jump in phenolic ripeness in the red berries thanks to a dramatic period in the diurnal cycle that occurred at the same time as the first quarter moon. This vintage brought about sinuous wines that are not too high in alcohol, with the right equilibrium between fresh fruit and vertical acidity, characteristics due to this final period of physiological maturity at the end of the winding growing season. A year of excellent quality since the rains spared us their odious inference.
Appellation: DOC Etna Rosso
Type: Red, dry
Varietal Composition: Nerello Mascalese Vineyard soil type: Volcanic
Vine Ages: 80-110 years old
Ratings & Reviews:
92 Points - Vinous Media:
"Roses and cherries galore waft up from the 2019 Passorosso with ease. This is silky-smooth and cool-toned in feel, mixing juicy acidity with a pleasant inner sweetness that creates a seductively vibrant yet fruit-forward expression. The 2019 cleans up beautifully, leaving a coating of round tannins that create a classically dry feel, as hints of spiced citrus and hard red candies slowly fade. The pleasure factor is turned up high here, and the balance is on point. Drinking Window: 2022 – 2027” --Eric Guido
91 Points - Decanter:
"Bottled under a waning moon in June 2021, Passopisciaro's blended red from the northern slopes of Mount Etna draws its fruit from vines aged between 80 and 110 years old grown in the various contradas which make up its range of single-vineyard bottlings. Ripe red cherry and pomegranate scents with a hint of earthiness and floral overtones are followed in the mouth by tangy red fruits, prominent acidity and velvety grip on the cheeks. The long finish is succulent, earthy and minerally, with some barrel spice."