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Nerello Mascalese

The Nerello Mascalese grape variety is the absolute protagonist of the Etnean territory as it represents the power, elegance and majesty of the great Sicilian volcano. It comes from centuries-old ungrafted vines planted with the traditional alberello system at altitudes of up to 1000 metres on extraordinary black lava stone terraces. From this warm and immortal land of fire comes a deep red wine, with great minerality and finesse. Defined by many critics as the Mediterranean cousin of Pinot Noir, in recent decades it has conquered the market with modern expressions of character, capable of conveying the vital energy of Europe's largest active volcano.

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The Nerello Mascalese grape variety is the absolute protagonist of the Etnean territory as it represents the power, elegance and majesty of the great Sicilian volcano. It comes from centuries-old ungrafted vines planted with the traditional alberello system at altitudes of up to 1000 metres on extraordinary black lava stone terraces. From this warm and immortal land of fire comes a deep red wine, with great minerality and finesse. Defined by many critics as the Mediterranean cousin of Pinot Noir, in recent decades it has conquered the market with modern expressions of character, capable of conveying the vital energy of Europe's largest active volcano.

The Great Etna Volcano

To truly understand a variety like Nerello Mascalese, it is first necessary to immerse yourself in its territory of origin, the production area of the Sicilian wine, which is particularly well known and enjoyed in Italy and abroad. When referring to Etna, the connection with this wine variety is obvious. Etna, traditionally nicknamed Mungibeddu (big mountain) by the locals, at 3300 metres is one of the most impressive active volcanoes in the world and also the highest peak below the Alps. A symbol of the Sicilian region and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, it is also a destructive force whose eruptive activity has caused irreparable damage in the past, unleashing violent lava flows, magma fountains and intense clouds of gas, which are visible even from satellites.

Located in eastern Sicily, its solemn and majestic appearance dominates the beautiful city of Catania and the wonderful paradise of Taormina. The lava soils, composed of sand, ash and mineral salts, are extremely fertile and allow cultivation and breeding on every slope. An incredible amount of products are created here: pistachios from Bronte, hazelnuts, apples, prickly pears, vegetables, citrus fruits and, last but not least, grapes. The latter grow on spectacular terraces of centuries-old vines, clinging to the lava rock from 300 to 1000 metres above sea level and cultivated using the ancient alberello system. The vines are planted without an organised geometric pattern, as in ancient times they were grown by offshoots. They are still among the few remaining ungrafted varieties thanks to the characteristics of the volcanic soil, which have preserved them from attacks by phylloxera, a small insect from America that destroyed a large number of vineyards at the end of the 19th century. The inaccessible and difficult terrain did not allow for mechanisation and forced manual work which also explains why vine cultivation was abandoned in past years.

The grape that symbolises the volcano, however, is Nerello Mascalese, an ancient red grape variety that gives rise to a red wine of great class and refinement. It has been rediscovered in recent years, thanks to the efforts of great producers and modern wine-making techniques. Because of its elegance and class, it has often been compared to Pinot Noir, and has been nicknamed the "Burgundy of the Mediterranean".


History and Characteristics of Nerello Mascalese

This variety, also known by its local name of Niureddu Mascalisi, made its first appearance in history with the Greek colonisation. The Greeks, in fact, carpeted the slopes of the volcano with grapes and temples dedicated to Dionysus, identified in Rome as Bacchus, the god of wine and ecstasy. Later, in Roman times, the county of Mascali, from which the name Mascalese is said to derive, played a very important role in its diffusion. Nestled between the volcano and the sea, this is still the area where this enological expression is born, in addition to the famous areas of Randazzo and Castiglione di Sicilia, located on the northern slope. Liquid evidence is provided by the beautiful Etnean interpretations of great producers, such as the Nerello Mascalese Passopisciaro, which is produced in one of the seven hamlets of Castiglione di Sicilia, in the province of Catania, but also the modern expressions of the artisan Frank Cornelissen and those of Palmento Costanzo.

It is a late-ripening grape which is harvested in mid/late October. It has a medium-sized berry with a thick, pruinose skin, tending towards a blue-purple colour. Since 1968, together with its brother Nerello Cappuccio, which can be present at a maximum of 20%, it has been the foundation of the Etna DOC denomination. Generally speaking, the most common characteristics are: a pale ruby red colour with garnet highlights; aromas of small red fruits, floral fragrances and scents of liquorice, tobacco and spices (depending on the period and type of ageing); and a warm, elegant and extremely refined taste, with pleasant tannins and a remarkable mineral freshness. A red wine that captures the volcano without filters or adjustments!


Typical Pairings with Sicilian Cuisine

The best combinations of Nerello Mascalese are based on the rich and tasty Sicilian cuisine. We recommend pairing it with caponata/parmigiana di melanzane, fish couscous, cartocciate catanesi, maccheroncini alla trapanese, pasta alla norma, casarecce with Mediterranean-style swordfish, arancini or pasta with sardines. It also performs divinely with meat dishes, such as red meat fillets, sliced beef with pistachio or grilled sausages.

Thinking about where to buy your next red wine to pair perfectly with Sicilian dishes? Buy Nerello Mascalese wine now online and at a special price on the Callmewine store. Discover its prices, characteristics and pairings on the detailed technical sheets created by our expert staff on your favourite online wine shop!