Sicilian wines made from vines planted on the slopes of the famous Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, have been getting well-deserved buzz for the past few years. The fresh, savory 2012 Tascante Buonora Carricante, a white with aromas of flowers and flint, bright acidity, and an intense taste of green apple and slightly smoky rocks, really reflects Etna’s distinctive terroir and has plenty of personality for its very reasonable price.
Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week
Region: Sicily, Italy
Grape: 100% Carricante
Serve with: Rich fish with lemon sauce, pasta and truffles
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Tascante is one of five Sicilian estates operated by Tasca d’Almerita, founded in 1830 and now run by the Count Lucio Tasca and his two sons, Giuseppe and Alberto. On my first visit to the island, I spent a day at their 500-hectare (1,235-acre) Regaleali estate in Sicily’s center, where Anna Tasca Lanza presides over a stellar cooking school. Eight generations of the family have been intertwined with Sicily’s history. In the late 1990s, Giuseppe became fascinated by Mount Etna, and eventually bought 21 hectares (51 acres) of land in the best zone on the northern side of the volcano, where vines are planted on steep terraces. The name Tascante combines the family name and “Etna” spelled backward.
This is a wine area of extremes, with an unpredictable brooding volcano, often covered with snow, dictating unpredictable weather, rough, steep slopes, lava-and-rock-laced soil. Costs to grow grapes and produce wines here are high, which is one reason vineyards were mostly abandoned. About 30 years ago, there were only a handful of producers; now there are more than 80. Old gnarled vines and the diversity of terroirs at elevations from about 1,000 to 3,000 feet were a draw for the new producers who’ve made Mount Etna one of Italy‘s most exciting wine regions.
Tascante Buonora ‘extremely special’
Though Etna’s reds seem to get the most attention, the whites, like this one, are also extremely special. The Tascante Buonora is made from the ancient, rediscovered variety Carricante, which people say has grown on Mount Etna for a thousand years. It’s aged in stainless steel tanks, which keeps its flavors very pure.
Back in 2010, Tasca d’Almerita began working with Italian scientific research institutes on a project of sustainable agricultural development and is to be commended for using more solar energy, reducing the company’s carbon footprint, managing water resources, reducing chemicals in their vineyards.
Sicily, like all of Italy, is a source of fascinating wines made from unusual grapes with highly individual flavors. This 2012 Tascante Buonora is one of them.
Top photo: 2012 Tascante Buonora label and the vineyards in the shadow of Mount Etna. Credit: Courtesy Tasca d’Almerita