2018 Ayunta Nerello Mascalese Bianco
Region: Mt. Etna < Sicily
Grapes: Nerello Mascalese
Farming Practice: Organic farming; 50-100 year-old vines on Etna’s volcanic soils; grapes are softly pressed in order to not extract too much coloring (no maceration), followed by spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel and aged in cement for 7 months; 500 cases; 12% ABV
Winemaker: Filippo Ayunta
FUN FACT: Mt. Etna is the highest volcano in Europe, and one of the world’s most active. It tops out at nearly 11,000 feet (you can ski Etna - yes, skiing in Sicily!) and vineyards dot the black volcanic landscape as pretty high up the mountain.
We love Etna wines, especially ones that come from small and scrappy one man (or woman) operations, like this project from Filippo Ayunta, who still holds down a day job (as export manager for a big Northern Italian winery). He grew up on the other side of the Sicilian island, where his family grew grapes and made wine until grandpa died and the estate had to be sold off. Years later, walking the slopes of Etna, Filippo met the old owner of a nearly abandoned vineyard in Calderara Sottana who wanted someone to continue his life’s work. He told Filippo, “Take it. Don’t let this vineyard die.” So Filippo spent his entire savings to buy the vineyard, and now makes wine from a few parcels around Randazzo on northern Etna, totaling 2.8 hectares of super old vines. Filippo guesses they are up to 300 years old each. He also renovated the original palmento (open-topped stone fermenter) next to his house, where the wine basically makes itself using the indigenous yeast that has been helping ferment wine since before the early 1800s.
All of his wines are fantastic (like this coppery rosato that we offered in December). And now he’s doing a white Nerello Mascalase, which is super unusual, and crazy delicious! Nerello Mascalese is the primary red grape used in Etna Rosso reds, but here Filippo presses the juice off the skins immediately to make this crisp, zingy white. The minerality is intense, as is the acid -- not surprising from these soils -- but there is flesh on these rocky bones - bright and almost tropical -- like passion fruit, peaches and white flowers etched on a canvas of flint. A total unicorn wine that we want to drink all summer long!