Passopisciaro Franchetti 2020
“The 2020 Franchetti is gorgeous, bursting from the glass, spicy and intense, flaunting its Cesanese aromatics with a mix of blackberries, lavender, sage, white pepper and smoke that make this impossible to ignore. This is deeply textural, almost creamy in feel yet spry, with medium-bodied textures and a salty core of minerality that offsets its masses of ripe dark fruits and sweet herbal tones. The length here is astounding, as well as the harmony within, finishing structured yet sapid, leaving violet florals and nuances of plum sauce to linger on and on and on. This is already so appealing, elegance personified, yet the best is surely yet to come. In 2020, the Franchetti is a blend of 60% Petit Verdot and 40% Cesanese d’Affile. Drinking window: 2024-2032. 98 points
The sad news at Passopisciaro is the passing of Andrea Franchetti in December of 2021. Franchetti was truly a visionary winemaker, both in Tuscany and Sicily, and one of the pioneers of Etna. He arrived over two decades ago, and along with a handful of other trailblazers, set out to prove the worth of this region to the world–he most definitely succeeded. My recent interview with the Passopisciaro team revealed a deep-rooted respect and love of Andrea that has inspired them to continue on in his memory, with no foreseeable changes in sight.
As for the Passopisciaro portfolio, tasting through it is always an education, as the winery has holdings and produces single-vineyard wines from five of the most highly esteemed crus on Mount Etna (Sciara Nuova, Rampante, Porcaria, Guardiola and Chiappemacine). What adds further dynamic to this mix is that all five wines are vinified in the same fashion in the cellar; all refined in large oval-shaped oak barrels between fifteen to thirty-five hectoliters. The end result is the ability to truly study the differences of each individual terroir. Winemaker Vincenzo Lo Mauro stated to me quite eloquently, “Each contrada is like a single instrument.” To make things even more interesting, this year’s lineup included both the 2019 and 2020 vintages, which provided fantastic insights into both years and how different each microclimate performed. For a broader understanding of Etna and the Passopisciaro house style, there is the Passorosso, a blending of multiple crus, with a 45% core coming from Guardiola, and all from vines that are between 80- to 100-years-old. Collectors really can’t look at this wine as an “entry-level” expression because, frankly, it overperforms in every possible way. I often think of the Passorosso the same way that I think of Vietti’s Barolo Castiglione. It’s all about blending for balance. For a more internationally-styled wine, it’s the Franchetti that sits atop the pyramid on Etna. This blend of varying amounts of Petit Verdot and Cesanese D’affile is a permanent stamp that Andrea Franchetti has left upon Etna, having planted the vines in 2000. It has since become one the top wines being made in Italy today. As for the whites, readers may be surprised to learn that both of the Biancos of Passopisciaro are made with Chardonnay, and from locations that are some of the highest-elevation plantings of the variety in the world, at 1,000 meters. When Andrea Franchetti arrived on Etna, Carricante from this part of the region didn’t impress him; and so, in 2002, he planted Chardonnay in the Guardiola and Passochianche crus. Now that these vines have come to age, the winery also produces a Cru Bianco, the Passochianche (PC). Plainly stated, for collectors with the resource to do so, the entire portfolio is worth hunting for.”
Eric Guido, Vinous (06/22)