Mount Etna, Sicily 2012 Nerello Mascalese ‘Treterre’ by Wiegner - 538 Wine Notes

Sicily, a wine growing region since ancient history, has had a resurgence of quality since the late 1990s. Quality growers are abandoning the over production and bulk wine mentality of generations past in favor of embracing indigenous grape varieties and exploring new areas for growing. One such area that is showing great promise is Mount Etna. On the higher slopes, with volcanic soil and high altitudes, the hope is that wines of distinction can be made. 

Nerello Mascalese is the undisputed prince of the vine varieties growing on the mystic Etna volcano. This volcano is located on the eastern coast of Sicily, eternal land of fire and passions, and inherits its extraordinary nuances, enclosing them in a wine of intense flavor and opulent shades that make it truly unique. This uniqueness is partly due to the soil, rich in ashes, mineral salts and sand, of the highest active volcano in Europe that, with its altitude of 3300 meters and its huge conical shape, overlooks uncontested the magnificent Catania.

Some recent studies have however proved that this local red vine variety made its first appearance during the Greek colonization in the VII century B.C. on the coasts of Calabria, moving then to Naxos and later to Catania in 728 B.C., when Greeks introduced, on the eastern part of Sicily, the cutting cultivation technique and the cult of Dionysus, the god of wine. At that time, many Greeks were growing vines in the eastern part of Sicily and on the slopes of Mount Etna. They say that also the poetess Saffo, banished from her homeland, the Island of Lesbos, moved to this area of Sicily and started cultivating vines.

It was only during the Roman age that Nerello Mascalese started spreading on the slopes of Mount Etna, becoming an interesting alternative to the famous Falerno. Here it put down roots in the area of the Mascali plain, a small agricultural zone between the sea and Mount Etna in the province of Catania, hence its name “Mascalese”, and in the territories of Randazzo and Castiglione di Sicilia. Mount Etna would host Nerello Mascalese for centuries, with its extreme volcanic land at an altitude between 350 and 1100 meters above sea level, which offers the best climatic conditions for its cultivation. The ‘Treterre’ you have here is 100% Nerello Mascalese.

At the beginning of Mount Etna’s rise to recent prominence a decade ago, Peter Weigner moved from Tuscany, where he had owned a small vineyard, to Sicily and purchased multiple vineyards within the Contrada Marchesa and Contrada Rampante appellations. Thriving off the unique climatic conditions that come with living on the hills below a volcano, these vineyards bene t from the nutrient-rich volcanic soil, a high elevation of 750 meters above sea level and all-day sun exposure. Under the tutelage of his father, Peter’s son Marco handles the production of the wines, using Nerello Mascalese, Fiano, Cabernet Franc and Aglianico.

Wiegner is committed to making wine that reflects the unique character of Mount Etna. All of their wines are made with estate fruit, holding fast to the tenet that great wine can only be made from great grapes. Ambient yeasts are used for red wine fermentation, while their whites are inoculated. The reds generally receive about a 25-day maceration and are then racked to oak and aged for 18 months. The white is aged in stainless steel for 6-8 months on ne lees. The addition of sulfur is kept to a minimum throughout and all work is done manually. The resulting wine is an expression of terroir, vintage, grape, and place. 

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