An experimental wine, but an impressive one from the Despagne family, this barrel-fermented (both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation) wine, made mostly from Merlot, completely transcends its humble pedigree. Dense purple in color, with notes of espresso roast, chocolate, pain grille, and copious black currants and blackberries, the wine is very chocolaty, rich, modern-styled, but impressively well-made as well as concentrated. Drink: 2009-2017
Mount Etna, the area on the eastern side of Sicily, is the most extraordinary place. Volcanic, mountainous yet also cooler than most of Sicily due to its higher altitude, it is spectacularly rich with flora including orange, lemon, avocado, plum, pistachio, almond and mimosa trees as well as artichokes, broccoli and, of course, grapes. Nothing could be closer to the Garden of Eden than this. For its wines, the main grapes are the indigenous and late ripening Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, varieties that "yield wines of notable aromatic complexity, with finessed tannins and a weightless quality that recalls Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo." (Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate, Feb 2008) The Russo family have been grape growers for generations in Mount Etna and for all those generations, they sold their harvest to larger producers. In 2005, the young and dynamic Giuseppe Russo realised that he was missing out on the potential of his vines (many being 80-100 years old) and began producing a miniscule production from his own vines. They are juicy and ripe yet are refined, focused and mineral - like those from the Côte d'Or. They are absolutely delicious andhighly recommended.