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…

Tuscan city celebrates 98 points in Wine Spectator

Above: “Decameron” by Waterhouse (1916). The countryside outside the city of Fiesole served as diegetic backdrop in Boccaccio’s Decameron. Fiesole lies in the hills above Florence.

In the wake of last week’s post (“Why Italians Are Offended by our Ratings and Rankings”), the title of the present may seem ironic. But it’s not.

On Friday, Franco posted about a municipally funded event held last month in Fiesole (Tuscany) to celebrate 98/100 points awarded by the Wine Spectator to Bibi Graetz’ 2006 Testamatta.

According to a press release issued by the township of Fiesole:

    The event was organized in collaboration with the Township of Fiesole to celebrate the wine that received 98/100 from Wine Spectator, the highest score awarded to any Tuscan wine. This score has made Fiesole a full-fledged member on the map of the great wines of Italy and the world.

My post last week generated an unexpected and welcomed thread of comments and I am thankful to everyone for taking the time to weigh in.

In the light of Fiesole’s celebration (sponsored by the city government), it would seem that not all Italians are offended by our ratings and rankings (at least the ones that receive top scores).

For the record, Testamatta is made using indigenous Tuscan grapes: Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Colorino.