Growing up, Giuseppe Russo didn’t have much interest in the vineyards his farther and grandfather lovingly tended on the northern slopes of Mt Etna, particularly as the wine they made in the cellar under their house was being sold as bulk wine. He followed his passion for music, studying in nearby Catania then nurturing young musicians as a teacher, the same way his father Girolamo tended the family vines. When Giuseppe’s father passed away suddenly he made the decision to honour him by not only taking over the family contrade, but also starting his own project, naming the label after Girolamo. Initially working closely with neighbouring farmers who knew these soils and vines intimately, and with recent arrivals in the region like Frank Cornelisson and Andrea Franchetti, in the last fifteen years Giuseppe has become one of the regions most celebrated wine producers.
Anna Martens began her wine career just outside of her home town of Adelaide, working with one of Australia’s foremost authorities on winemaking, Brian Croser. After spending almost ten years at Petaluma, she wanted to spread her wine-wings. She spent some time in New Zealand studying for the Master of Wine, but soon ended up working at the prestigious Super-Tuscan estate of Ornellaia. This was where she met her eventual husband Eric Nairoo, and through his own business importing into the UK, she was introduced to natural wines. Eventually they decided to find somewhere she could produce her own wine, and they chose the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna, where she now produces Vino di Anna.
Contrada Chiappemacine 2012
Dusty earthy subtlety, somewhat closed, a bit dirty red fruits, crunchiness. Very tight lean and focused, precise through the mid palate, intense focused tannins, crunchy slightly sour raspberries.
Contrada Porcaria 2012
A bit more open tomato some meat notes, some sinewy ripe dried herbs. Fleshier but still tight, brighter lighter but fuller too, slightly more approachable but still great tannins.
Contrada Guardiola 2012
Some dried floral notes, nice savoury sour black cherries. Powerful in the mid palate, lifted more generous tannins, slightly rounder, lovely soft finish with focused acids.
Contrada Sciaranuova 2012
Deeper darker fruit, sweet cherry notes, lovely soft florals. Surprising tightness and focus but sweeter tannins, quite expressive on the mid palate.
Contrada Rampante 2012
Very subtle, contained possibly even closed. Tight sinewy lithe tannins, drying out on the back, quite savoury earthy tannins. Chewiness.
Contrada single-vineyard wines from Passopisciaro 2012 vintage
Pretty developed on the nose, very open, possibly a reflection of vintage as well? A hint of meatiness to it. Very tight and sharp still on the palate, plenty of exuberance and sharp acids.
Not as open but certainly meatier on the nose, earthy red fruits, a touch more vibrant as well. Still lovely tightness and focus, not as crunchy, better balance of structure, better containment and potential longevity.
Lighter leaner and prettier, more subtle and complex, but also a bit more closed, meat vegetal red fruits and earth all in harmony. Juicier and softer roundness but still plenty of fresh acids and firm yet supple tannins.
Deeper more intense fruits leaning on the dark side, subtle sweet earth notes. Softer juicier fruits, more gentle tannins, more opulence in comparison to other vintages, a more gentle touch.
Punchy almost candies red fruits on the nose, a bit closed at the moment but bright crunchy pretty notes, even some florals too. Soft juicy intense sweet red fruits, warm on the palate, a tad unbalanced at the moment, lots and lots of tannin, nice complete finish, way too early. Quite tight.
Last year was a particularly good year for drinking for me, I have to admit it. Thanks to all the fantastic people I met and venues I discovered, who all work with some beautiful products, I got to both taste and drink (sometimes a bit too much) some amazing stuff. Some of these wines were tasted at events or trade tastings, some at my favourite bars & restaurants, and a few were tasted at wineries I visited (which was too rare in 2014). You’ll notice that many of these wines are Italian which very much reflects where I was at this year working for an importer of Italian wines, and also visiting Italy in June.
Let me know what you think, and tell me in the comments what were your highlight wines for 2014.
2014 was a momentous year as it was the first time I tasted Claret!
Peter Scudamore-Smith was Australia’s second ever Master of Wine, the most illustrious title and qualification one can receive in the wine industry. He has led a fascinating life of wine, and he joined me on the first episode of 2015 to discuss his origins in wine, working in both Australian and European wine markets, and how his love of Italy and France has led him to take tours there as part of his business Uncorked and Cultivated.
Castello Fonterutoli 2007
Significantly showed the difference of having more oak than the sangiovese samples, and also the small addition of cabernet sauvignon. On the nose it combined roasted red capsicum with black cherry and red currants, and on the palate showed very youthful power and texture, looking very masculine.
Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2009
Had an interesting floral black fruits nose, very good concentration and balance, a clean finish with nothing sticking out.
Siepi Toscana IGT 2007
A very dense mature nose, and on the palate was soft and plum jammy, very fruit sweet and warm and quite bold in fruit and oak.
Belguardo Serrata 2009
Blend of 80% sangiovese and 20% Alicante. Wasn’t showing anywhere near as well as the 2008 did when I sold it back in Australia.
Tenuta Belguardo 2007
Very soft and full, but still elegant and structured, with expressive blackberries and powerful breadth.
Belguardo Vermentino 2007
Very big aromatics somewhere between riesling and pinot grigio, but on the palate looked like a fruit-driven viognier.
From the Sicilian property was quite dull and lifeless, also not a patch on the 2008.
A white wine blended from 50% insolia and 50% grecanico, and as the first wine had unusual aromatics of wild mature honey, earthy herbs, and a slight dried fish aroma. On the palate the wine was rich, textured and complete, showing the true old-world character in a complex way.
Pithos Grecanico 2010
100% grecanico fermented in amphoras, blew my head off as I smelt Japanese seaweed that you use in miso soup, whilst on the palate was approachable yet unique, showing brightness, freshness, texture and concentration with very low alcohol.
A blend of 60% nero d’avola and 40% frappato, which are all fermented in amphoras separately and then blended together. A bright clean ruby colour, aromas of wild red earth and dried red fruits, and on the palate had life and passion to it, with approachable fruit and great acids to keep things balanced yet uncomplicated.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2009
The same blend of varieties, but is fermented in cement vats and spends time in large barrels. Much more subtle and gentle on the nose, denser and easier to understand for most people, but still an excellent example.
Nero di Lupo 2008
A 100% nero d’avola wine fermented and stored in a combination of amphoras and cement vats, maturing for 18 months before another three months of bottle-age pre-release. Very closed, earthy and rustic on the nose with some wild red fruits, intense but not obvious, and on the palate was focused and concentrated with exuberant tannins and wild mushrooms.
The Vincast - a Wine Podcast with The Intrepid Wino
Wine - Wine People - Wine Culture
A podcast about wine, wine culture and wine people. Every week a different guest from the wine industry joins host The Intrepid Wino (aka James Scarcebrook) for a casual chat about the world of wine.
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