Among the Absolute Best from Sicily’s Mt. Etna
Until recently, Giuseppe Benanti’s wines were more or less an industry secret. True, Mario Batali has been pouring back-vintages at Del Posto for years, but it wasn’t until the 2014 Etna Rosso clocked in at #3 on Wine Enthusiast’s 2016 Top 100 list that allocations became harder to get than ever. Today’s 2015 Benanti Etna Rosso follows in the famed footsteps of its predecessor, boasting characteristic volcanic minerality, brilliant red cherry and raspberry fruit, and mouthwatering acidity. Antonio Galloni’s Vinous called the 2015 “lively and balanced,” “an outstanding Etna Rosso,” awarding it 91 points, while Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate hailed the 2015 as a “streamlined and elegant wine.” The Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes that make up the 2015 Etna Rosso hail from 40-year-old, free-standing vines planted in sandy, volcanic soils, 2,300 feet up on Sicily’s Mount Etna. The energetic spirit of the volcano is present in every swirl and sip. Vibrant, fresh and an incredible $22 per bottle, 400 bottles of the 2015 Etna Rosso won’t last the day.
Much has been written about the emergence of Mount Etna as one of the most unique and exciting winegrowing regions in the world. No account is complete without mentioning Benanti. As Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate noted, “Benanti's winemaking history is synonymous with Etna winemaking history. In fact, the hard work and excellent wines produced at this historic winery are what catapulted this unknown part of Sicily to the enological forefront some 15 years ago. Benanti's wines are among the best made on the volcano today."
Giuseppe Benanti started out as a pharmacist, after his father, but it was his grandfather’s calling — winemaking — that finally took root in him. In the 1980s, Benanti teamed up with legendary enologist Salvo Foti to extensively research the patchwork of volcanic soils and microclimates on Mt. Etna. It was very familiar land — Benanti’s family had been there since 1693 — but a brand-new challenge. In 1988, after a careful selection process (note: Mt. Etna is an ACTIVE volcano), Benanti released his first vintage.
Today, Giuseppe’s two sons, Salvino and Antonio, are running the estate, while Foti’s protégé, Enzo Cali, is making the wines. A recent Wine Spectator feature hailed the new generation for streamlining the estate and propelling the wines to their greatest height yet. The 2015 Etna Rosso is case in point.