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By now, our subscribers should be more than familiar with the phenomenon that is Etna—the still-erupting volcano in eastern Sicily that is home to some of the most exciting wines in the world. There isn’t a wine importer in America who isn’t searching for a brand from Mount Etna to represent, but there’s one problem: there’s a finite number of producers and vineyards alike. I Suoli is an exciting new label, but like a lot of “new” labels, it’s the product of experienced hands and old vines.
It’s a side gig, of sorts, for native son Giuseppe Russo (of the acclaimed Girolamo Russo estate), who has partnered with his neighbor Dante Pasqua and winemaking impresario Emiliano Falsini to produce bright, natural reds and méthodeancestrale sparklers sourced from grapes grown on the prized northern slope of the volcano. This 2018 is designed to be a brighter, more live-wire expression of Etna Rosso than many of the heavily concentrated styles being produced today, and it works like a charm—this may be a 2018, but it’s just getting started, so you might consider acquiring more than a few bottles so you can lay a few down. Chances are you’ll drink them all up quickly once you’ve gotten a taste, but it’s worth a try!
In terms of provenance and pedigree, I Suoli (“the soils”) has all the bases covered. Girolamo Russo is one of the great artisan producers on Etna. He was a classically trained pianist and music teacher/theorist before returning to his family farm after his father died in 2003. Most of Russo’s plots are in and around Passopisciaro, one of the “Grand Crus” of Etna’s north slope, while his old friend, Dante Pasqua, also makes Etnean wine in nearby Calderara Sottana. The third member of the I Suoli triumvirate is Emiliano Falsini, a renowned “flying winemaker” with consulting projects all over Italy.
“I Rilievi” incorporates grapes from both Russo and Pasqua’s contrade (farms) on the north slope of Etna: Contrada San Lorenzo (Russo) and Contrada Calderara (Pasqua), both of which boast very old vines (60 years on average) at elevations climbing past 600 meters. Only about 2,000-3,000 bottles are produced annually, in a style that is bright, fresh, and terroir-transparent: The wine is macerated on skins for 15 days in open-topped vessels, with around 30% whole grape clusters lending a spicy component and keeping the alcohol in check.
Although this 2018 was aged 12 months in used French oak barriques, it remains light in color and body, with lots of aromatic lift. Just a few clicks north of rosé in appearance, it delivers lots of floral aromas along with notes of cranberry, dried strawberry, wild herbs, lots of ‘forest floor’ bramble, and dusty, smoky minerality. The acidity is high and the tannins fine and firm, so give it a brief decant before serving in Burgundy stems at 60 degrees. It blossoms nicely (and quickly) in the glass, but could also be laid down for a bit to put on some extra weight. Be sure to decant it about 30 minutes before serving if opening it now. Serve it on the cool side and pair it with something quintessentially Sicilian, like caponata. You will be very happy with the results. Enjoy!
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