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Alberto Aiello Graci has been making wine on Sicily's Mount Etna since 2004, the year he returned from his apprenticeship as a Milan banker, picking up the baton with 5 hectares of family land, 2 hectares of which is vineyards (the rest polycultural activities). The region of Etna Rosso, famous for its black lava soils and elegant red wines made from the Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio grapes, has been undergoing a revival since 2000, lured by juicy EU grants and spectacular scenery. Once carpeted with vines - the fruit of which was allegedly used to in bulk to prop up the wines of the Langhe and of Burgundy - it has now become an artisan's playground, a mix of hobbyist and commercial winegrowers. Alberto Graci is definitely in the latter category; his feet firmly on the ground. As the Vice President of the Consorzio, that covers 300 hectares of Etna DOC, he's forever preoccupied with the quality of the wines now being produced (at yields still as high as 65hl/ha). His patch of heaven is part 50 year old, 8500 high density, free-standing 'alberello' vines at 1000 metres above sea level that produce naturally low yields amid the black grainy soils, part younger trained vines on flatter, lower sandier terra. He prefers to tend his vines as naturally as possible. Fermentation takes place in a combination of large cement and Au strian Stockhinger oak of 42hl, at ambient (30-35 celsius) temperatures, using wild yeast, before moving the wine into slightly smaller Gamba barrels. He seeks the reductive quality of large oak, that captures the character of the soil and fruit, rather than the stylistic effects of micro-oxygenation brought by French barriques. Alberto debuted his Etna Rosato (100% Nerello Mascalese) with the 2013 vintage, partnering the earlier drinking smoky red Etna Rosso, the more structured, wilder berried Quota 600 (from vines 600 metres up - a 500 case production of only Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio, lush and lithe), the high thrills of his Quota 1000 and the minerally citrus Etna Bianco Contrada Arcuria (made from 100% Carricante).
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Alberto has hit the ground running with this 'squisito' Rosato, his first, made from 100% Nerello Mascalese - the black grape of Etna. Indeed Alberto has made a point of resurrecting a (Rosato) wine that traditionally cantine always produced, and now we can see why. A beautiful pale salmon pink, it possesses the same sleek refinement that one has come to expect from a Sancerre rosé wine. Very elegant and understated on the nose with pretty red whole berries; the palate flows beautifully on, so harmonious and sublime. The pedigree of the noble Nerelle Mascalese coming through even as a Rosato! Exquisitely balanced throughout!
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The wine formerly known as Quota 600 now carries the name of its territory on the slopes of Europe’s most active volcano. The 100-percent Carricante wine is fabulous with bright, creamy, citrus fruit on the nose, slightly reminiscent of high-quality Chablis. The minerality of the volcanic soils comes through on the palate. Very much of its place, this is beautifully put together with those citrus notes showing themselves again. Great, crisp acidity and balance, this will drink from release, but will age and develop wonderfully, if you have the patience. Since 2005, Sicilian Alberto Aiello Graci — aided by his sister Elena and mother Maria Adelaide — has been making refined and true Etna Rosso and Etna Bianco wines from 19 hectares of fruit grown on the still-trembling Mount Etna. More precisely, his black Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, and white Catarratto and Carricante grapes are grown on two prime sites: Contrada Barbabecchi in the village of Solicchiata and Contrada Arcuria in Passopisciaro. The wines are traditionally made without temperature control, employing large oak and, where possible, wild yeast to bring out the full expression of the land.
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Impeccably turned out, Alberto's wines reflect their creator. Petal-fresh, with a wave of molten strawberry and minty fruit, suave, so fleshy and yet at the same time delightfully mineral; at its core lie small, sweet, smoky cassis berries. As with the 2013s of the Langhe, Graci’s Etna wines have a sophistication and class which will only develop further. This is a perfect example of why the Nerello Mascalese grapes from Etna’s lava slopes produce Siciliy’s most exciting and refined red wines. Since 2005, Sicilian Alberto Aiello Graci — aided by his sister Elena and mother Maria Adelaide — has been making refined and true Etna Rosso and Etna Bianco wines from 19 hectares of fruit grown on the still-trembling Mount Etna. More precisely, his black Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, and white Catarratto and Carricante grapes are grown on two prime sites: Contrada Barbabecchi in the village of Solicchiata and Contrada Arcuria in Passopisciaro. The wines are traditionally made without temperature control, employing large oak and, where possible, wild yeast to bring out the full expression of the land.
Formerly known as Etna Rosso Quota 600, Alberto has decided in 2012 to pinpoint the wine’s provenance on the label, hence the words ‘Contrada da Arcuria’. It still heralds from that lofty spot among the rocky lava flows, whose black, sooty soils contrast dramatically with the profusion of wild fennel that coats the volcano. These extraordinary soils, rich in magma minerals, appear to give a smoky edge to the loganberry, fleshy fruit, while remaining very precise and salty – a natural trait of the Nerello Mascalese grape. David Berry Green
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