From: Sicily, Italy
Varietal: Nerello Cappuccio
Taste: In the glass, you’ll find enticing aromas of spices, herbs, smoke, and delicate red fruit. The palate echoes the nose, revealing a dry, medium-bodied wine characterized by satin tannins and pleasant acidity. Lingering, harmonious flavors of red fruit on the finish conclude this sublime sensory experience.
Kerin O'Keefe of Wine Enthusiast, scoring it 90 points, describes it as "a grape usually used to blend with Nerello Mascalese, shows the juicy fruit allure of the variety. It opens with aromas of black-skinned berries, dark spice, Mediterranean scrub, and blue flowers, while the soft, rounded palate doles out fleshy Morello cherry, white pepper, and just a hint of tobacco. A salty note backs up the close, and lithe tannins provide seamless support. Drink through 2024."
As a testament to the wine's layered complexity, it proves highly versatile when pairing, effortlessly matching with red meats, mature cheeses, and elaborate meals based on fish or white meats. Think of it as the Sicilian cousin of Pinot Noir or Gamay regarding food affinity.
Pairing: Pair it with a sirloin steak with garlic butter, a classic Margherita pizza, or a seared tuna loin. For a more adventurous match, try it with traditional Sicilian dishes (check out the recipe below!) like pasta alla Norma or swordfish rolls.
Sicilian Lamb Spezzatino With Saffron and Mint
Recipe from Fabrizia Lanza
Adapted by David Tanis
About. From the lush slopes of Mount Etna, the heart of Sicily, Italy, comes an underappreciated grape varietal that is making a name for itself as a standalone star - the Nerello Cappuccio. In the beautiful hands of the Benanti winery, this grape variety is given the spotlight to shine and reveal its charm.
The 2018 Benanti Nerello Cappuccio is a fascinating exploration of this indigenous grape variety, often overlooked in favor of its celebrated cousin, Nerello Mascalese. The vineyard's unique positioning on the southwestern slope of Mount Etna, within the municipality of Santa Maria di Licodia, ensures an environment with a high elevation, low rainfall rate, great luminosity, and significant temperature changes between day and night. These factors play a critical role in defining the identity of this wine.
Sourced from 30-year-old vines, the grapes are meticulously hand-harvested in October, paying homage to traditional methods and respecting the vine's cycle. This area, Contrada Cavaliere, is known for its volcanic soil, sandy with an abundance of skeleton and minerals, and a sub-acid reaction. These conditions give rise to a wine rich in complexity and mineral depth, distinguishing the 2018 Benanti Nerello Cappuccio from other Sicilian wines.
The Cultivation and Creation of Benanti Nerello Cappuccio
The Nerello Cappuccio, long considered a blending variety, yields a wine that is soft, richly colored, and replete with cherry flavors on the palate when bottled alone. It thrives in the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, particularly at higher altitudes, yielding an elegance and structure in the wines not often found in other varietals. It buds early, ripens slightly earlier than Nerello Mascalese, and sometimes falls victim to spring frost due to its early budding, making the cultivation a delicate process.
In the cellar, the harvested grapes are de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature, with a two-week-long maceration period using indigenous yeast specifically selected in the vineyard by Benanti after years of direct experimentation. After fermentation, the wine matures exclusively in stainless steel for about 12 months and then ages in the bottle for an additional six months. This careful process ensures that the wine retains its natural flavors and complexity.
Beyond the Slopes of Mount Etna
While Nerello Cappuccio has historically been indigenous to the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, it is also grown in a few Calabria DOCs, including Lamezia, Sant'Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto, and Savuto. However, the wines produced from the slopes of Mount Etna stand distinctively apart, often attributed to the remarkable terroir which imparts a volcanic minerality.
Nerello Cappuccio has historically lent its color and perfume to Etna's blended wines, harmonizing and softening the harder edges of Nerello Mascalese. The wines often have an evocative scent, sometimes likened to the noble wines of Barolo.
Elevating a Traditional Grape Variety
The 2018 Benanti Nerello Cappuccio represents an elevation of this traditional grape variety from a blending component to a standalone star. Its layered complexity and mineral depth offer a fascinating insight into the potential of Nerello Cappuccio as a varietal wine.
Serving this wine at a temperature of 16 - 18°C will ensure the intricacies and total depth of flavors are appreciated. It is a wine that can effortlessly accompany various dishes, making it an ideal choice for an elegant dinner or a gathering with friends.
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