2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo Il Quadro delle Rose


Readers have many questions when it comes to the wines of Etna. How do they evolve in bottle? How long does it take for wines to peak? What should I expect? Etna is one of the newest emerging regions in the world, with a history that goes back millennia, yet only a twenty-year track record of modern-day, quality wine production. The establishment of its crus, the safe-keeping of the region's ancient vines, and the exploration of its diverse soils and expositions, is the result of work that only started in the early 2000s. Tenuta delle Terre Nere is one of the wineries that put the region on the map.

Terre Nere was the first Etna winery that filled my cellar, as early as the 2005 vintage. However, as I worked to understand these wines for myself, they often left me puzzled. Here we had the aromatics of Pinot Noir mixed with Nebbiolo, a delicate, almost-weightless feel, savory fruit profiles, and tannins that would often leave the palate aching. Those first vintages disappeared far too quickly, without providing the satisfaction I’d hoped for. Luckily, with time, I got smart and decided to wait and see. 

What has become apparent now is how Nerello Mascalese matures, which coincidentally is very similar to Nebbiolo, where, with time in the cellar, the wine actually gains in weight. Those ethereal textures the wines show in their youth deepen significantly. The fruit becomes sweeter, more vivid and almost dusty. The tannins are the hardest to gauge, as they remain grippy; and it’s less about them resolving, and more about the textures and fruit of the wine elevating to meet their volume. While I don’t see the wines maturing in a positive direction for as long as Nebbiolo, I think we can look back to the Pinot Noir comparison as a good gauge. I suppose we will all find out in time. 

Granted, every cru is different. Some producers mature in barrique, others use large neutral barrels, and some even use epoxy-coated terracotta - yet all of these wines need time to fully express themselves. Is the average Mount Etna Rosso a ten-year wine? Probably not. However, the top crus from the region’s best producers in a good year are the wines that are worth waiting for.

Vivid cherry-berry and sweet spice give way to a more autumnal display of cloves, cinnamon, sage and a lifting whiff of mentholated herbs as Terre Nere’s 2008 Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo Il Quadro delle Rose comes to life in the glass. It's been ten years since I last tasted this beauty, which at that time was a wall of tannin; but today, the 2008 is velvety, deep and elegant, with ripe red woodland berries and minerals offset by sour citrus under a gorgeous air of inner rose. The color is an impenetrable deep ruby, without a single sign of maturity. You can still perceive a coating of fine tannin through the finale, but now more of an accent than an obstacle, as the 2008 finishes gracefully and pure, resonating on notes of dried strawberries, red currants and hints of leather. This is what a mature Etna Rosso should strive to be. 94/Drink 2021-2030.

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