Buscemi, Il Bianco
Buscemi, Il Bianco

Buscemi, Il Bianco

Sicily, Italy 2022 (750mL)
Regular price$48.00

Buscemi, Il Bianco

Our first question, upon tasting today’s wine, was “How can this be?” How does a wine from a tiny single vineyard on Mount Etna, of which only 2,000 bottles are produced, find its way onto our table? The answer, of course, is “a shrewd and intrepid importer.” All we had to do was convince them to share what little they had—something we did fervently, even obsequiously, embarrassment be damned. Mirella Buscemi is a relatively new name on the star-studded slopes of Sicily’s famous volcano, but her vines, and her winemaking heritage, reach back generations. This white blend, based on Etna’s native Carricante variety, is one of the most opulent and profoundly mineral wines we’ve tasted lately—not just from Italy, mind you, but anywhere. It’s serious, it’s soulful, it’s substantial…there aren’t enough superlatives, nor are there enough bottles to satisfy what should be a frenzied demand. This is a new benchmark, so don’t delay in securing some for yourself.

Some subscribers may be familiar with Mirella Buscemi, whose 1.5-hectare heirloom vineyard is in an out-of-the-way contrada (subzone) called “Tartaraci,” in the village of Bronte. As we’ve noted before, Bronte, which is on the western slopes of Mount Etna, doesn’t technically fall within the official boundaries of the Etna DOC (thus the “Sicilia Bianco” designation on this bottle). But no matter. There may be better-known, more widely cited contrade on Etna, but Tartaraci is the stuff of legend nonetheless: It is planted to bush-trained vines exceeding 90 years of age, so while her label may be new, the reputation of this site is long established. Buscemi has worked closely with her husband, acclaimed Etna winemaker Alberto Graci, to craft this stunning expression of a special vineyard.

If you look at a map of the Etna wine appellation, you’ll see it wraps around the volcano mid-slope, with most of the vineyards situated between 500 and 800 meters’ elevation. The officially delimited area stretches, crescent-like, from Randazzo in the north around to the eastern and southern slopes of the mountain. Bronte is on the northwestern slope, about 20 kilometers from Randazzo, and the assorted contrade of Tartaraci include some especially high-elevation sites, including Buscemi’s, which sits at a dizzying 950 meters. It’s a piece of land with an incredibly rich history: Bronte was part of a “dukedom” given to British Admiral Horatio Nelson in 1799, as a token of appreciation from the Bourbon King Ferdinand II, whose rule over Naples and Sicily Nelson helped to restore. 

From gnarled old vines arrayed in the traditional alberello (“little bush”) style, Buscemi combines 70% Carricante—the chalky, high-acid white Etna is best known for—and 30% of the fruitier Grecanico and ferments the wine in large-format tonneaux barrels, allowing the wine to complete malolactic fermentation. Aging lasts for roughly eight months in those same barrels, resulting in a wine that combines deep minerality, ripe fruit, a hint of creaminess, and a whiff of volcanic smoke.

There’s a profoundly “Burgundian” quality to this ’22, albeit with much more sea-spray salinity and a hint of tropicality to the fruit. In the glass, it’s a deep straw-gold moving to a silver/copper rim, with aromas and flavors of white peach, apricot, lemon zest, and crushed black stones. It has a rich, mouth-coating feel on the mid-palate but finishes with mouth-watering acidity, with no overt evidence of oak beyond a hint of yeastiness. There’s structure here, so give it a splash-decant about 15 minutes before serving at 50 degrees in larger all-purpose stems or Burgundy bowls. Pair it with a time-tested Sicilian standard like swordfish involtini and celebrate one of the greatest white wines—and cuisines—in Italy. Cheers!

Buscemi, Il Bianco

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