Nerello Mascalese is a highly regarded, dark-skinned grape variety that grows most commonly on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. Its wines, which have had a rapid upsurge in popularity in the last decade, have a tendency to reflect their surroundings, giving taut, fresh red wines with fruity, herbaceous flavors, excellent minerality and an earthy nuance.
Nerello Mascalese wines often have a perfume reminiscent of those of the noble wines of Barolo and Burgundy.
The variety takes its name from the Mascali plain between Mount Etna and the coast where it is thought to have originated – a small portion of older vines predate the phylloxera epidemic of the 1880s.
The prefix Nerello refers to the black color of the grapes, and is shared by Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascaleses most common blending partner. Both grapes are found in Etna DOC wines, with Nerello Mascalese making up the bulk of the blend and easily surpassing plantings of Nerello Cappuccio.
1968, Nerello Mascalese became the main ingredient of the DOC denomination of
Etna Rosso of which it represents a good 80%, whereas the remaining 20% is
composed of the Nerello Cappuccio grape varietal. It is used, to a lesser
extent, also in the DOC of Alcamo, Contea di Sclafani, Faro, Marsala and
Sambuca di Sicilia, besides those of Calabresi di Lamezia and Sant’Anna di
Isola di Capo Rizzuto. Nerello Mascalese’s characterizing elements are its late
ripening, generally during the second and the third week of October and finally
that it allows producing some important red wines, suited to ageing. Nerello Mascalese Grapes
characteristics of the monovarietal Nerello Mascalese generally are a ruby red
color reminiscent of pinot noir, a strong fruity scent of red berry fruits,
with slight floral shades, a spicy hint, and a feeble effusion of vanilla and
tobacco, with a persistent trace of licorice; and a dry, tannic, persistent and
harmonic taste, with a strong body