Etna Rosso Passorosso 2017 - World Class Wine at an Everyday Price
A charismatic man with a glamorous pedigree, Andrea Franchetti, the proprietor of Passopisciaro in Sicily (as well as the acclaimed Tenuta di Trinoro in Tuscany), is the nephew of artist Cy Twombly and the heir to a South Carolina textile fortune on his mother’s side. Described by Jancis Robinson in 2002, as "a youthful Yves Saint Laurent," Franchetti once ran a restaurant in Rome, before moving on to distribute Italian wines in the US in the 80s.
In 2000 Franchetti was driving around Sicily on vacation and found himself on Mt. Etna, an active volcano and the largest in Europe. Etna had once been a thriving region for growing grapes for bulk sale for inexpensive wine. But after WWII the area had been partly abandoned due to the shifting economics of growing on the difficult steep slopes of Etna. He found an old farm with cellars on the slopes located about a thousand meters above the small, wine-centered town of Passopisciaro in the district of Castiglione di Sicilia, and determined to revive the property. His arrival on Etna helped to initiate a renaissance of viticulture on the mountain and he is a founding figure in the international recognition of the wines of Etna.
The 2017 Passopisciaro Passorosso is from ancient Nerello Mascalese vines, a grape almost solely found around Etna, which are between 80-110 years old and from different terroirs on different lava flows and altitudes. Franchetti found that the mineral mix varies in different locations and that each of his plots create strikingly different wines. He bottles these as single vineyard releases. The Passorossa, however, is blend of these plots; in Burgundy terms it is his ‘village’ wine. The Burgundy analogy applies as well to the Nerello Mascalese grape, which Franchetti discovered has a remarkable Pinot Noir-like ability to transmit terroir and to age gracefully. The 2017 is medium to full-bodied, powerful in structure, with notes of ripe red fruits, blood orange and pomegranate. It’s beautiful now and will age for the next ten years.
Wine Enthusiast, 93 pts. - “Aromas of ripe wild berry and Mediterranean scrub alongside a whiff of eucalyptus take shape in the glass. Juicy and smooth, the palate offers crushed raspberry, strawberry compote, licorice and notes of exotic incense framed in taut, fine-grained tannins. A tangy mineral note gives the finish tension. Drink through 2027.”
Wine Advocate, 91 points - “The 2017 Etna Rosso Passorosso is a mid-weight wine with added succulence and concentration that comes naturally to this vintage. The wine shows the characteristics of Etna with wild berry aromas that cede to blue flower, smoke, tar, toasted aniseed and campfire ash. This is one of the most accessible and easy-drinking reds from Andrea Franchetti.”