Killer Nerello from the “highest” vines and fried oysters


Above: At $10 a glass (!), this 2008 blend of Nerello Mascaelese and Nerello Capuccio from “2,100-2,900 feet above sea level” (!) BLEW ME AWAY. The pairing with fried gulf oysters was a great example of how the right red wine, not to heavy in body, can be ideal for seafood.

It’s been just over a year now since I moved to Austin and there are still a few culinary destinations that I haven’t made it to yet. Last night finally found me at appetizers and a glass of wine at Jeffrey’s in Austin. It’s one of the more elegant rooms here, well laid out architectonically for intimate dining (despite a couple who had brought their crying newborn and a table of five older ladies who complained vociferously — more loudly, in fact — about the child’s lachrymatory suspiration).

I’ll have to take Tracie B back for a proper dinner soon: I liked the wine list and was surprised by some interesting choices but I was BLOWN AWAY by a wine I’d never had before, the 2008 Etna Rosso by Tenuta delle Terre Nere — at $10, yes $10! by the glass (“BTG” in restaurantspeak).


Above: Tenuta delle Terre Nere doesn’t have a website but I used to find the address and then Google-mapped it and switched to “satellite” view. That’s the peak of Mt. Aetna in the center. I love how you can see the black soil (the “terre nere”) from space!

I wasn’t expecting to like this wine but was curious about it. I’d heard a lot of people talk about it since I moved to Texas but was nonetheless skeptical: it’s owned by a famous importer of Italian wines, who tends to favor modern-style wines (historically and commercially) and I’ve often been disappointed by wines created by importers for the American market. But a little research this morning revealed that Tenuta delle Terre Nere sells its wines actively and aggressively in Italy. In other words, it’s not just a winery created for a foreign market and has a true connection to the place where it is made.


Above: There is tartare and then there is tartare. The fried potato puffs were a little soggy unfortunately but the tartare was delicious and paired magnificently with the Nerello.

According to the importer’s website, grapes for this wine are grown “at extremely high altitudes, ranging from 2100-2900 feet above sea level” and the winery owns the “highest-altitude red-grape vineyards in Europe” (although that fruit doesn’t go into this wine).

This wine was all black earth and dusty minerality (like putting lava in your mouth) yet fresh and bright, with a seductive aromatic profile that made me think of dried figs. (I apologize for the “precious” tasting notes but this wine really turned me on.)

I loved it. I loved the price, I loved the body, aroma, and flavor. I loved the food-friendliness of it. I even loved the label (honest, clean, elegant, true to the style and origin of the contents). The only thing I don’t like about it is how so many wine writers compare it to Burgundy and to Pinot Noir (to my palate, Nerello and Pinot Noir have little in common, other than the fact that they can produce light-colored tannic wines). When they do that, they only reveal their ignorance: this wine is one of those truly terroir-driven wines, a wine that could only be made in the volcanic subsoils of Mt. Aetna, from Nerello grown in the “highest” vineyards in the world…

Run don’t walk…

16 thoughts on “Killer Nerello from the “highest” vines and fried oysters

  1. @Whitney I was surprised to find out that the wine sees time in new wood (about 25% according to the site).

    @ACE I remember that post and the couple! ;-)

    thanks for the comments, ya’ll!

  2. Hi Jeremy:

    This is my official house wine. I buy at least a case of it every year and we have it with so many different foods. Favorite pairing so far was baby octopus with tomatoes, capers and black olives. Your tasting note is right on with the lava in your mouth analogy, minerals and earth yet such nice fruit.

    I have to admit though that I have recommended it to Pinot Noir lovers as something new to try.

  3. @Adrian thanks for the info! I’m hoping someone will carry it retail here in Austin (maybe at the flagship Wholefoods!).

    @Susan I had to stop reading at “baby octopus with tomatoes, capers, and black olives” as the mimetic desire was getting too much to bear and dinner is far off! ;-)

  4. I really miss the deGrazia book. I think the book gets a bad rap for being too modern. There are lots of gems like this hidden there. Maybe you can add them to your other French book.

  5. What a coincidence.I stood with a bottle of Tenuta delle Terre Nere in my hand yesterday and decided against buying it. This was in Copenhagen, DEnmark where it costed around 20 US dollars a bottle. Seems like I made a mistake. Didn’t like the shop and didn’t know the winery. I tried the 2006 Passopisciaro and Cornelissens Munjebel #5 the other day, liked them both a lot and was looking for some nerello. Anyway, now I’m to far away to go back to the shop. Next time I see a Tenuta delle Terre Nere I’ll buy it.

  6. Thanks, ya’ll, for weighing in. I was floored by how good it was, regardless of the price. $13 a bottle seems pretty good but prices will vary across the U.S.

    @Michele Benanti’s wines are awesome, although the man himself is a bit holier-than-thou. “I don’t make Sicilian wine,” he once told me when I tasted with him in NYC, “I make Aetna wine.” Oy vey…

  7. I picked up a bottle yesterday for $18 (@ Chelsea Wine Vault in NYC). The salesperson called it elegant and Burgundy-like — whoops! I’m looking forward to trying it later in the week — it sounds right up my dusty figs alley.

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