About the Producer
Calabretta’s vineyards are located nearly a half mile above sea level in the black volcanic soils of Etna’s north slope, between Randazzo and Castiglione di Sicilia. There, Calabretta farms roughly seven hectares of mostly 70- to 80-year-old vines—many of them ungrafted—on stepped terraces supported by stone walls.
Since the winery’s founding in 1900, the Calabretta family has farmed and produced wines from Etna’s ancient indigenous varieties—including Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio—in the mountain’s unique noble vineyards.
Historically, the family had sold its wine in sfuso or in barrel to restaurants and to private customers, many of whom travelled long distances to pick up their wine. But in 1997, third- and fourth-generation father and son Massimo and Massimiliano Calabretta decided to bottle their best wine under their own label to ensure the winemaking traditions of their family and Etna would not be lost.
The vineyard practices sound modern but are in fact rooted in the past. They avoid using chemical pesticides or herbicides, and they harvest by hand, starting around the second week of October. Fermentations are carried out exclusively with wild yeasts.
Calabretta is part of the Triple A group – which stands for Agricoltori (Farmer) Artigianale Artisti. It’s a collective of wineries across Europe that that includes E.Pepe, Radikon, A. Occhipinti, Foradori and SRC in Italy. The vineyards, planted piede franco (ungrafted rootstock), are mostly in Contrade Calderara and no chemicals have ever been used. Over the last few years Massimiliano has planted 60,000 new vines, also piede franco.
Coming from both old vineyards and younger plants, Carricante di Calabretta stands out for its natural freshness and excellent structure. Vinified in white and left to mature in steel only, what results is a particularly tactile, bright and elegant wine, traced by a clear minerality.
About the Wine
Sicily’s Mount Etna has an ancient winemaking culture, sharing Barolo’s tradition of long aging in massive old botti. The resulting delicacy and tarry nuance evoke comparisons not only to Barolo, but to Burgundy. Today, few adhere to Etna’s ancient practices. But one great estate, Calabretta, continues to make its majestic reds as in the past, releasing them only after years in their cellar. Calabretta Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie IGT (formerly labeled Etna Rosso) comes from a seven-hectare vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna. Average age of the vineyards is between 60-80 years with some plants over 100 years old, some ungrafted--on original root stock. Massimiliano Calabretta holds more in common with some of the stalwarts of traditional Barolo production than he does with most of his fellow Etna producers. He ages his wine in large neutral oak botti and holds his wine back for years in bottle before release. This vintage is a blend of nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio. The winery practices organic farming in black volcanic, stony soil at an elevation of 750 meters.
Calabretta’s jewel is its Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie, a gift for lovers of traditionally made Italian reds.
Grape / Blend
The extended aging shows in the wine's velvety texture. It coats your palate without a trace of excess weight, sliding towards an unique convergence of value, character, and age rarely seen in Italy, if not the world
94 Points - Vinous
Bright red. A funky note clears with aeration to showcase very pretty strawberry, red cherry and violet aromas and flavors, complicated by hints of fresh ginger, white pepper and lemon peel. Finishes long and perfumed with outstanding juicy cut and with suave, polished tannins. -Ian D'Agata
Product size: 750ml