TN: Two Etna Biancos


At a recent dinner we were each asked to bring unusual wines to serve blind. As my white wine, I brought a 2012 Terre Nere Etna Bianco. Thierry served his wine which I didn’t at all pick. On the reveal, I saw that it was the 2013 Terre Nere Etna Bianco so I stayed quiet about my wine and served it blind immediately afterwards …

  • 2013 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco - Italy, Sicily, Etna DOC
    Served blind. Pale with greenish tinge. A citric, stony, steely nose, with some lactic notes, suggesting barrel fermentation. In the mouth, nice, fresh and taut, with racy acidity. I thought it was not a Chablis, but the acid profile was somewhat Chablis-like. Mineral, chalky, with a little wet river boulder and citrus. Some nectarines and other orchard fruit. A little waxy, viscous, although not as much as the 2012, and lactic. It clearly needs more time (minimum 2-3 years) for the prominent oak to integrate a little more. (89 pts.)
  • 2012 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco - Italy, Sicily, Etna DOC
    Brighter, deeper colour. Also brighter on the bouquet with white florals, citric aromas, pineapple chunks and peaches. There was a little creamy vanilla, but not as much as for the 2013, and a fair whiff of seaspray. On palate, I strongly preferred the 2012 to the 2013. It seemed lower acid, but with sufficient acid. It seemed richer and riper than the 2012 with excellent phenolics, expressing itself as a pleasing bitterness on the long finish. The oak seemed more integrated and the oily, tactile mouthfeel more complex. The flavours were limes, melon, almonds, guava, wet limestone and clotted cream. Good dry extract, weight and volume. The wine was ‘cheese’ to the 2013’s ‘chalk’. Noone saw any link or similarity between this wine and the 2013, thinking that my wine was from the Rhone. Finishing the bottle the next day there was more pronounced salinity to match the fine citrus on bouquet and more salt and chalk on the finish. Overall, the wine was drinking better on the second day. Ideally, I’d still give this wine another couple of years …
    (90 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Thanks Howard. I missed prior vintages but did pick up a bit of the 2014 as well as the vigne niche and popped one to try. I really liked it but wondered about aging. Sounds like from your notes that I can easily let them go 3-5 years.

I find Sicilian whites interesting.

Are they blends, indigenous grapes or international?

Yes, you’ll need to narrow your question to get a real answer.

By “they” I meant these Bianco’s.

The 2012 Tenuta delle Terre Nere ‘Etna Bianco’ is a blend of 60% Carricante, 25% Catarratto, 10% Grecanico and 5% Minnella.

I have enjoyed Catarratto, Grillo and Grecanico blends.

In this case, very much a field blend of indigenous grapes. From the Terre Nere website:

I first made this wine in 2005. I wanted to remove that more or less 5% of white grapes that the local vignerons used to mingle with their red ones, in order to make my Etna Rosso from red grapes alone. The white grapes were a mumbo-jumbo of local varieties: Carricante, Catarratto, Grecanico, Inzolia and Minnella. So that’s what my Etna Bianco was: a field blend of all the above, with Carricante dominating the blend with roughly 65%. And that’s what it still is. All from old vines.

To my taste, Etna Bianco is much the most interesting white wine from Sicily, and one of the most interesting white wines produced in Italy. If you like good Chablis you’ll like good Etna Bianco. For one thing, the grapes are grown at very high altitude, more than 500 meters above sea level and up to 1,000 m or even higher in some cases; for another, Carricante is a striking variety that produces very age worthy wines. Benanti’s ‘Pietramarina’ is a standout.

Calabretta makes a nice Bianco for around $14 or so. I think it was NV.

Found a new Etna producer at Weygandt’s in DC a couple weeks ago. Davide Bentivegna. The rosso’s were good, but the white KAOS was just fantastic. Weirdly, the labels are all listed as Siciliane IGT, but they are all Etna wines. They even have the location and elevation of the vineyards on Mt. Etna on the label.