Our tasting impressions
Well, isn't this special! and VDLT is pleased to be the first to offer it in the US. The century old vines (some ungrafted, pre-phylloxera) are vividly evident in the remarkable depth and character of this Etna Rosso. Don't let the pale hue or light body make you think this is not a very serious wine. I love the way the ash juxtaposes with the red fruit flavors and aromas. It's like picking a strawberry and eating while still standing in the garden. The silky texture is accentuated because the finish is so long. Gorgeous!
About this wine
A brand new varietal wine from Nerello Mascalese in Passopisciaro on the Northern slope of Mt. Etna. Elevation is 750 meters above sea level. There is significant variation between day and night temperatures, which is an important factor in the quality of the grapes.
The vineyard of Cosentino in the Contrada of Feudo di Mezzo was planted more than 100 years ago. Some of the vines are original rootstock. They are planted on several terraces in a "Clos", with the walls of dry lava stone. The soil is sandy and volcanic, rich in minerals and lapilli (small stones spewed from eruptions).
The manually harvested grapes are partially de-stemmed and fermented by naturally occurring yeasts. Following a long maceration, with the skins, the wine is decanted into oak barrels for the malolactic fermentation. Fifteen months later, it is moved to a steel tank. Bottling, 6 months later, is without clarification or filtration. Only 3,500 bottles are produced annually.
About the grape
Nerello Mascalese is the grape most associated with Etna. Elsewhere in Sicily, it is predominantly a blending variety. But, in Etna’s high elevation, climate and mineral-rich, volcanic soil, it plays a starring role. It is dark-skinned, late-ripening and acidic. It is not uncommon to liken it to Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir.
Massimo's view of the vintage
A harsh winter with little rain was followed by a spring with above seasonal temperatures. The hot and dry summer led to a major advance in the early stages of ripening of the grapes. After the first 8 months of the year, the maturation of the vines was earlier than typical. September brought some rain and cooler temperatures slowing the maturation and allowing the grapes to ripen well and develop freshness and fragrance. 2016 vintage is definitely one of the best in recent years for harmony and subtlety, a year where elegance prevails over concentration.
Suggested Glassware: Grassl Cru
Massimo Lentsch is atypical among the winemakers in the VDLT Community, as he was not born into grape farming. He had a successful export business, which included a major wine estate. But always, wine was a passion. He discovered Lipari, the largest of the Aeolian Islands, north of Sicily during a sailing excursion. He decided immediately to establish Tenuta di Castellaro in 2005. His wines from 20ha of vineyards have become widely admired.
In 2018, he created another Azienda in Etna. Though nearby, and similarly volcanic, they are widely divergent - and Etna is a much more competitive region. The new estate, which bears his name, is 10.4ha on the slopes of Mount Etna, in the Province of Catania. It is in the communes of Castiglione di Sicilia and Randazzo, in the Contrade (Districts) of Feudo di Mezzo, Caldera Sottana, Chiusa Politi and Pianodario.
His vineyards are at high elevations so they are rich in volcanic soil. They are organically farmed, mostly by hand. In keeping with his commitment to local traditions, Massimo employs the head-trained system in Lipari and the Albarello training system in Etna to manage his vines. Amazingly, harvesting is considered on a per-vine basis.
Massimo’s passion and dedication are palpable. He blends respect for the past with entrepreneurship to produce wonderfully terroir-driven, yet distinct wines. It seems like there is no stopping him!