Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2019



“Terre Nere’s wines all possess unbelievable freshness and complexity, as well as huge perfumes that suggest Pinot Noir. These wines are astonishingly complex and ethereal efforts from the hillsides of Mount Etna in Sicily.” — Robert Parker, Wine Advocate

It was at a wine dinner 13 years ago. It was a Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago. It was the fifth of nine courses.

The sommelier — a master sommelier — a friend of mine, said he wanted to surprise me with a wine for the course. He said he wanted me to taste it blind.

“What is it?” he asks me.

“It’s totally delicious!” I say. “It’s earthy and delicate, it’s savory and bright. But I can’t tell yet what it is.”

“It reminds you of Burgundy or Barbaresco,” he says, “doesn’t it?”

“But it isn’t,” I say.

My friend shows me the label and says, “Terre Nere Etna Rosso. Nerello Mascalese from Sicily. Like Burgundy. Like Barbaresco.”

The appellation of Etna is like an island on the island of Sicily. It’s a terroir where nature is as generous as it is severe. A terroir whose culture and history are as ancient as the story of its wine. It’s a land, a history, and a culture that the legendary wine importer Marc de Grazia and Tenute delle Terre Nere have created a bond with.

Marc is the proprietor of Terre Nere and one of the contemporary pioneers of the Etna appellation. He was the first producer to recover the value of Etna’s ancient terroir, the first to become a point of reference for Etna’s wines, and the first to attract wine lovers from around the world to the qualities of Etna’s vineyards.

A half-million years of volcanoes have created the character of Etna’s soil. The soaring heights of the appellation yield its swings of temperature from day to night. These soils, these temperatures, and Marc’s bond with this terroir make these wines both rich and elegant, both generous and refined, both forceful and precise. Like Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Like Nebbiolo from the Langhe.

A whiff and a sip of the 2018 vintage take you to the heights of Mount Etna and the surf of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The wine is layer after layer of aroma and flavor — strawberries, cherries, sea salt, mountain herbs, and ashy earth. Wine & Spirits rates the vintage with 92 points and highlights its wild strawberry, blood orange, crunchy herbs, and “dark current of smoke and tar that offers a superb introduction to Etna Rosso.” Vinous adds, “One of the most consistent and affordable reds coming out of Italy.”

Back at that wine dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago, I savored my glass of Terre Nere Etna Rosso. This was a dinner featuring a roster of great wines, including Premier Cru Burgundy and Cru Barbaresco. When my friend the master sommelier came back to the table, my glass of Terre Nere was empty.

“I’ll tell you what,” I say to him. “Let’s forget about those other wines. I’ll just take a bottle of Terre Nere.”