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Benanti Nerello Mascalese 2014

Benanti Nerello Mascalese 2014

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"The Benanti 2014 Etna Rosso Nerello Mascalese is a tight and elegantly streamlined wine with a firm tannic structure that is followed by dehydrated tones of wild cherry, forest fruit, grilled herb and balsam herb. Flint, mineral and licorice are also thrown into the aromatic presentation. Fruit is sourced from both the northern and the southern flank of the Etna volcanic cone. Drink: 2017-2025. 91+ points

Giuseppe Benanti's sons Antonio and Salvino have increasingly taken on managerial roles at the family winery and have done so with a powerful sense of charge and purpose. The generational shift at Benanti is impressive and I was very happy to visit with both father and sons during my last trip to Etna. They have streamlined production, removing some lesser-performing wines. At the same time, they restructured their vineyard holdings, selling off property and buying two hectares of Nerello Mascalese in Rovittello, 2.5 hectares of Carricante in Milo and possibly two more hectares of Carricante in Viagrande."

Monica Larner, Wine Advocate (232)

Crusaders, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, the Mafia.....These are just some of the invaders who have left their mark on Sicily, an important fact which goes some of the way to explain the background to the delicious wines now emerging from the 23 DOCs and 1 DOCG which make up its wine map. Many historians have commented that Sicily is more akin to a continent in its own right rather than a mere province of Italy and it is this heritage more than anything which gives these wines their vibrancy and complexity, together with the infinite variation of soil type, especially on the slopes of Mt Etna itself.

Sicily has always produced buckets of undistinguished wine - encouraged latterly by EU subsidies. More recently though, there has a been an explosion of top quality wine with many producers in the Etna DOC at the forefront of this. This is due in large measure to the tireless work of Diego Planeta whose wines many of you will already have enjoyed. As well as starting his own eponymous winery in 1995, he was also responsible for persuading Settesoli (the largest producer of bulk wine in Sicily) to expand the range of native grape varieties they were willing to cultivate commercially. The workhorse (and rather bland) and most widely planted variety in most of Sicily has long been Cataratto but now there are more dynamic wines made from Frappato, Nero d'Avola, Nerelli Mascalese and Capuccio, and Carricante - to name but a few.

Benanti, whose vineyards lie predominantly on the slopes of Mt Etna at Viagrande in Catania, was founded at the end of the 19th century. The Etna DOC was established in 1968 but the modern era for this estate really starts in 1988 when Dr Giuseppe Benanti completed a study of soil types with a view to matching the grape variety and its clones to specific soil types. This is no mean feat as Sicily has such fabulous diversity. Since then, this producer has gone from strength to strength, with a range encompassing wines made from single native varietals to wines such as Majora, the top wine, made from a blend of Nero d'Avola, Syrah, Tannat and Petit Verdot.