I got turned on to the wines of Girolamo Russo by the folks at Da Francesca in Rome last year. New to me, but apparently Russo is one of the better new-ish Etna producers who took over his family’s old vines in 2005. I find the wines a joy to drink, but serious wines that speak of a place.
2017 Girolamo Russo Etna Nerina- Italy, Sicily, Etna DOC (3/1/2020)
The '16 of this was the first bottle I tried last year out of the cellar at Da Francesco. Super crisp, it is spring vitality in a bottle. Edgy, green apple, juicy, with undertones of rock and very faint hints of smoke notes. Super shiny and lively. Electric. Really enjoyable wine. Mostly Carricante and a blend of native Italian grapes with funky names. Perfect with homemade chicken piccata
Love to hear it. I was introduced to Girolamo Russo while in Sicily this past December and ended up visiting. Great people and wines. I think they are great wines for people who really want to taste terroir and are not necessarily interested in natural wine dogma/ or have low tolerance for flaws. Lovely, unadulterated wines that tell the truth of Etna. I especially enjoy their San Lorenzo Rosso.
Nice, George! Thanks for chiming in. And welcome. Cool that you got to visit, I’m jealous. I’m increasingly smitten by wines of Sicily, and the volcano. So much so that’s impacting my travel plans as I want to go back to Italy and spend time in Etna.
I am glad you liked the Russo wines. I agree entirely with your description of Giuseppe’s style, he is very interested in making low-input wine but still wants it to taste good. San Lorenzo is my favorite contrada too.
I don’t know about the ageability of the wines, I don’t think anyone really knows yet because this is such a new project, but I have to ask what the point of “ageability” would be? I think the wines improve with a bit of time in the cellar but can (mostly) be enjoyed on release. I haven’t had great luck with older wines from Sicily but it’s a small sample size (although of top tier wines like Palari Faro, Passopisciaro and Terre Nere Pre-Phylloxera) so maybe other folks have deeper experience.
One of the reasons for my pivot towards Alto Piedmont is that I find that the wines have an earlier window of good drinking vs Langhe so I appreciate wines that show well within 5 years of the vintage.
I think it’s natural for folks like us to wonder what possibility there is that a young wine will develop in a positive way with time. The fact that it drinks well now doesn’t render that a pointless consideration.
With Etna in particular, I find it an interesting question. Many of the wines seem as though they might have positive aging potential, but without the track record, you can’t really have confidence in the answer either way.
At the same time, it’s not at all wrong just to say “they drink well now, just drink them now.” Each of us may have a different interest in looking at it a certain way.
Sure. I said IME, that ageing didn’t have positive results for some very biog name Sicilian wines. Whether something can age versus whether it gets better is important to me. For example, often petit sirah (duriff) seems immortal but does it actually improve?
Not Nathan, but I’ve had a few Etna’s (and Faro, lower elevation but uses the same grapes) and had mixed results with aging up to 12 years or so (about the oldest I’ve aged so far). Initially I find the tannins need smoothing, so would age for that. I’m not sure that aging adds a lot more in complexity, but the wines can change and tend to lose the upfront fruitiness which can age to a mulled character similar in some ways that aglianico ages. Still trying to figure them out myself, and some will age well, others not so well.
A few years ago, I was buying the then-current releases from Calabretta, which were vintages from the early 2000s, and those were wines which showed nice aged characteristics at 15 or so years from vintage. They were also inconsistent in the way of such a rustic producer, but the good bottles were definitely wines that had aged positively to that point.
I haven’t bought those in a few years – they changed their labeling and naming, and it seems like they’re releasing younger vintages, and I guess I’m just confused enough not to have continued seeking them out, though I probably should.
I know what you mean about Calabretta, and the ones I’ve had, from Passopisciaro to Tera Nera to Foti to Palari and some others it is a mixed bag as well. When they are on, I would say aging has enhanced them, but then there are others which do not age in a positive way and it’s difficult to tell which will be what. This is still a fairly young wine area. So far, the whites seem consistently better to me.
I’ve had several aged (10-15yrs) wines from Calabretta that have a substantial proportion of Nerello that showed a lovely leathery/umami character but still retained some juicy black cherry fruit. I would say the aging curve depends a lot on the structure of the starting material; Calabretta tends to produce wines with a strong tannic structure.