Sicilian wine adventures – Part 5; Nerello again and again



Can a major player produce a Nerello Mascalese tasting just as good as the ones from the boutique wineries?

We all have our preconceived views when it comes to major brands. Especially if you’re a wine geek. I mean, how many of us frequently pick up a bottle from a winery producing more than a million bottles a year? Five millions? Or even ten millions? Just the idea turns us off since we’re convinced that it impossibly can be as good or interesting as the boutique winery’s version of the same style. Prejudices?  Or are we just afraid we actually will like a wine widely available?

Big guys are big for a reason and that reason is not primarily spelled marketing. Everyone has to start at scratch and to get big you need to especially strive for three goals: consistency, quality and great value. When you’ve reached that level in your production, marketing kicks in and if you’re good at that as well, then there’s no stop to your future success.

But does a large production automatically correlate with boring wines? Would you pick a Tenuta di Fessina Nerello Mascalese prior to a Duca di Salaparuta ditto? A boutique winery vs a ten millions bottles industry?

Know your business intelligence and you quickly realize Etna is hot. Very hot. Everyone wants a piece of it including the major players. Duca di Salaparuta is one of them. You know, the Corvo rosso guys. Their Làvico Vajasindi is an important wine for them, demonstrating they also do premium wines on the trendy Nerello Mascalese. Around 50,000 bottles. But, is it just as good as a Biondi, Graci, Tenuta di Fessina or Tenuta delle Terre Nere?

Nerello Mascalese and some Merlot

2005 Làvico Vajasindi, Duca di Salaparuta, 88-89 points

Red color. Not as pale as many other Nerello’s. Perhaps the fact that it contains 10 per cent Merlot adds some color to it? Sweet cherries, toasted oak, clove, black olives, flowers, tobacco and dried figs. Elegant. Mature bouquet showing some complexity but perhaps less Nerello character.

On the palate it offers more Nerello. Fine maturity, delicious acidity adding depth to the taste of cherries, lingonberries, plum skin, licorice, dates and tobacco. Toasted oak as well. The tannins are mature but still with an excellent grip. Like that. Nice sweet finish and good length. Ready to drink but if you’re into more maturity it will keep for a few more years (but hardly improve).

No doubt, this is good stuff. I’d smile if you served me this one and I will buy it once in a while myself. But I can’t help it – it doesn’t have that same presence and seducing power the Erse or Laeneo offers. And please, skip the Merlot. What’s wrong with Cappuccio?

Perhaps this is the weakness of the major players; to avoid producing all their wines in a streamlined form?