Our tasting impressions
Some people like to compliment Etna Rosso by calling it Burgundian. While it shares some traits - light body & color, red-fruit, good acidity, etc. - there is no denying its defining element is ages of lava flow. This wine has fine purity of fruit on the nose and palate with wonderful, ash-laden minerality. It drinks well now but over time, the smoky tannins will integrate and the fleshiness will resolve. It will be a pleasure to enjoy this over the next decade +.
About this wine
A blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio in Passopisciaro on the Northern slope of Mt. Etna. Elevation is 700 meters above sea level. The climate is Mediterranean with a strong mountain influence, characterized by important temperature variations between day and night.
The grapes come from a portion of the Cosentino vineyard planted about 60 years ago in sandy, volcanic soil, rich in minerals and lapilli (small stones spewed from eruptions). The harvested grapes are transported to Lipari, where they are de-stemmed and fermented by naturally occurring yeasts. Following a long maceration, with the skins, the wine is decanted into new French oak barrels for the malolactic fermentation. About a year later, it is moved to a steel tank. There is no clarification and just static decanting before bottling, to be released at least 12 months later.
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.
Nerello Cappuccio, also dark-skinned but earlier ripening, is usually the supporting player. It lacks the nobility of Mascalese but adds lush color, softening of tannins and acidity.
Massimo's view of the vintage
Winter started early and was quite cold; delaying development of foliage by about two weeks. But favorable spring weather put vine development back on track. Warm temperatures and drastic day to night swings characterized the summer, which was surely hot, but not as much as in Central and Northern Italy. It was a complicated vintage. However, targeted and precise viticulture, allowed us to produce elegant and balanced wines with great aromatics.
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!