Nerello Mascalese: the Grape 🍇

The name Nerello is linked to the intense purplish-bluish color of its grapes, while “Mascalese” derives from the fact that for centuries it has been cultivated in the County of Mascali on soils made up mostly of volcanic sands. Its grape has a characteristic oblong shape, ripens very late and its harvest takes place between the second and third week of October. The wines produced with this vine have a high alcohol content (13-14°) and are predisposed to a long aging and are characterized by great variability depending on the area of cultivation. In fact, Nerello Mascalese, like other noble grape varieties (Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir), has a remarkable sensitivity to the vintage and the Terroir of origin.

Nerello Mascalese: the Grape

According to 1968 regulations, Nerello Mascalese is the main component of the DOC denomination of Etna Rosso, representing minimum 80% of the blend, and the remaining 20% is composed of the Nerello Cappuccio.
We will explore the remarkable characteristics of Nerello Mascalese grape clusters, shedding light on their appearance, composition, and significance in winemaking. By delving into the intricacies of these clusters, we can gain a deeper understanding of the unique qualities that make Nerello Mascalese wines highly sought after.

Appearance of Grape Clusters: Nerello Mascalese grape clusters exhibit distinct visual attributes that contribute to their allure. They are medium-sized clusters, often with an elongated conical shape. The clusters possess a well-defined shoulder, where the cluster widens before tapering down into a compact base. This shoulder formation is characteristic of Nerello Mascalese and distinguishes it from other grape varieties. The grapes within the cluster are moderately spaced, allowing for adequate airflow and sunlight exposure. This feature promotes even ripening and reduces the risk of fungal diseases caused by excess moisture and limited air circulation.

Composition of Grapes: The grapes of Nerello Mascalese are a delight to behold, with their distinctive characteristics contributing to the complex flavors and aromas found in wines made from this variety. The grapes are typically medium-sized and exhibit an oval or cylindrical shape. They are endowed with a luscious dark blue skin, which serves as a protective layer for the juicy flesh within. Beneath the skin, the pulp of Nerello Mascalese grapes is succulent and contains a harmonious balance of sugars and acids. This balance contributes to the wine’s structure and provides a foundation for both vibrant acidity and desired sweetness.
Nerello Mascalese grapes have a reputation for late ripening, with full maturity typically achieved between September and October in the northern hemisphere. This extended ripening period allows the grapes to develop complex flavors, nuanced aromatics, and optimal phenolic ripeness, leading to wines with depth and finesse.

Significance of Grape Clusters in Winemaking: The unique characteristics of Nerello Mascalese grape clusters significantly influence the winemaking process and the final wine produced. The moderate density and well-spaced grapes within the clusters facilitate uniform ripening and reduce the risk of fungal diseases, contributing to the overall health of the vineyard.

Winemakers often appreciate the balanced sugar and acid levels in Nerello Mascalese grapes, as they provide a solid foundation for crafting elegant and age-worthy wines. The vibrant acidity lends freshness and vitality to the wine, while the sugars contribute to body and texture. The thick skin of the grapes provides desirable color pigments and tannins, adding complexity and structure to the wines. Moreover, the distinctive flavor profile of Nerello Mascalese grapes, often characterized by red fruits such as cherry and raspberry, along with subtle herbal and mineral undertones, showcases the terroir-driven nature of this grape variety. The grapes’ ability to express the volcanic soils and unique microclimate of Mount Etna contributes to the wine’s sense of place and distinctiveness.

In the hands of skilled winemakers, Nerello Mascalese grape clusters can yield wines that display elegance, finesse, and a remarkable sense of balance. The characteristics of the grape clusters, combined with careful vineyard management and thoughtful winemaking techniques, contribute to the production of wines that capture the essence of Nerello Mascalese’s terroir and captivate wine enthusiasts worldwide.

The cluster of Nerello Mascalese grapes holds a special place in the world of winemaking. Its alluring appearance, composition, and significance in crafting exceptional wines make it a prized grape variety.

Products obtained from the Nerello Mascalese grape are mainly red wine, but can also include other types of wines and spirits. This grape variety, mainly cultivated on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, is the protagonist of the production of some highly prestigious and charming wines.
The main products obtained from the Nerello Mascalese grape are:

I – Nerello Mascalese Single-Varietal Red Wine: is often vinified as a single-varietal wine, allowing it to fully express its unique characteristics and the terroir of Mount Etna. The result is a high-quality red wine, known for its elegance, freshness, and distinctive minerality. Plus, discover more about Etna Rosso.

II – Nerello Mascalese white wine: a niche in the wine world.

III – Nerello Mascalese Rosé Wine: can also be used to produce rosé wines, obtaining a delicate color and lively aromatic profile.

IV – Nerello Mascalese Sparkling Wine: To a lesser extent, can be used in the production of sparkling wines, both traditional method (champenoise) and Charmat method.

V – Nerello Mascalese Spirits: In some cases is used in the production of spirits such as grappa. Thise distilled product can capture the intense aromas of the grape and offer a new tasting experience.

I – Nerello Mascalese Single-Varietal Red Wine
The red wine produced from the Nerello Mascalese grape is characterized by a series of technical attributes that make it a fascinating and highly appealing enological experience for enthusiasts in the field. Originating from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, this wine reflects the uniqueness of the volcanic terroir from which it comes, greatly influencing its sensory profile. In terms of appearance, Nerello Mascalese wine displays a bright and transparent ruby color, with nuances that can vary from ruby red to garnet with aging. This hue reflects the presence of anthocyanins and polyphenols, indicating a high concentration of beneficial compounds for the structure and color of the wine.
On the nose, the aromatic bouquet of Nerello Mascalese is quite complex. Clear scents of ripe red fruits, such as cherries, sour cherries, and raspberries, are often accompanied by delicate floral notes of violets or roses. What truly sets this wine apart is the evident minerality, typical of volcanic soils. This characteristic manifests through hints of volcanic ash, flint, or sometimes smoke, enriching and distinguishing the overall aroma of the wine.
From a taste perspective, Nerello Mascalese is known for its freshness and well-balanced acidity. The tannins are usually silky and delicate, imparting a pleasant softness to the wine. The overall structure is supported by the perceived mineral notes in the mouth, creating a sense of depth and lingering taste.
Nerello Mascalese red wine is best enjoyed when served at a temperature between 16°C and 18°C, allowing the wine to fully express its aromatic characteristics. For a complete sensory experience, it is recommended to use a tulip-shaped glass or a red wine glass with a slightly wider opening at the top than the bottom. This type of glass allows the wine to oxygenate, releasing the aromas concentrated towards the nose.
The gastronomic pairings for Nerello Mascalese wine can be varied and interesting. Thanks to its freshness and mineral notes, this wine pairs well with fish dishes, especially those based on oily fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. It can be an excellent choice to accompany raw fish dishes, sushi, sashimi, and carpaccio. At the same time, it complements well with meat dishes, such as white meats, poultry, and pork, preferably with light and delicate preparations. A classic and traditional pairing with Nerello Mascalese wine is Sicilian cuisine. It complements typical dishes of the region such as pasta alla Norma, arancini, caponata, and other regional specialties. Due to its aging potential, it can also be appreciated with aged cheeses and high-cuisine dishes that demand a wine with structure and complexity.

In conclusion, Nerello Mascalese red wine is suitable for a wide range of gastronomic pairings, offering a refined and satisfying tasting experience. The serving temperature and the choice of the right glass contribute to enhancing its unique characteristics, allowing it to be enjoyed to the fullest in the company of culinary delights. Thanks to its distinctive personality and connection to the volcanic territory of Mount Etna, Nerello Mascalese continues to capture the interest and admiration of wine connoisseurs worldwide.

Etna Rosso:
The main differences between Etna Rosso obtained from Nerello Mascalese as a single-varietal wine and the one obtained in a blend with Nerello Cappuccio concern the aromatic profile, structure, and aging characteristics.
Aromatic Profile. Etna Rosso produced from Nerello Mascalese as a single-varietal wine is characterized by a complex aromatic bouquet with notes of ripe red fruits, delicate flowers, and a marked minerality. This wine tends to be more elegant and refined, with an aroma that reflects the volcanic terroir of Mount Etna. On the other hand, when Nerello Cappuccio is included in the blend, Etna Rosso gains more depth and intensity in its aromas, with additional notes of dark fruits and spices.
Structure. Etna Rosso obtained from Nerello Mascalese as a single-varietal wine has a balanced structure, with silky tannins that impart a pleasant smoothness. This wine is often appreciated for its freshness and well-balanced acidity. In contrast, the addition of Nerello Cappuccio in the blend contributes to a more substantial structure, with more evident tannins and a fuller-bodied sensation in the mouth.
Aging Characteristics. Both types of Etna Rosso can be wines suitable for aging, but their characteristics evolve differently over time. Etna Rosso made from Nerello Mascalese as a single-varietal wine can develop greater complexity, with tertiary aromas and a more delicate structure as it ages. On the other hand, the blend with Nerello Cappuccio can offer greater longevity, with a robust structure that develops and stabilizes over the years.

Despite these differences, both wines are namedEtna Rossobecause they come from the same region and share the territorial origin of Mount Etna. The designation “Etna Rosso” is linked to the specific production area, which is the slopes of Mount Etna, and reflects the significant influence that the volcanic terroir has on the profile of wines produced in this region. This unique designation emphasizes the importance of the territory in the production of these wines and the special connection between the wine’s characteristics and the environment where the Nerello Mascalese grape is grown.
The disciplinary regulations for Etna Rosso, issued by the consortium for the protection of the denomination or the entity responsible for overseeing wine productions, establish the rules and requirements for the production of this wine, whether obtained from Nerello Mascalese as a single-varietal wine or blended with Nerello Cappuccio. Below are some of the main provisions present in the disciplinary regulations:

Allowed Grape Varieties. Etna Rosso can be obtained from both the native Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grape varieties, either as single-varietal wines or in a blend with specified percentages. These two grape varieties are considered the main pillars of the Etna Rosso denomination and impart the typical characteristics of the volcanic terroir of Mount Etna to the wine.
Minimum Percentage of Grape Variety. The disciplinary regulations may establish the minimum percentage of each grape variety to be used in a blend. For instance, it may require that Etna Rosso blends contain at least 80% Nerello Mascalese and up to 20% Nerello Cappuccio.
Production Zones. The disciplinary regulations specify the geographical areas where the grapes must be cultivated to be eligible for Etna Rosso production. In the Etna Rosso denomination, vineyards must be located on the slopes of Mount Etna, particularly in the north, northeast, and southeast areas of the volcano.
Maximum Yield per Hectare. The disciplinary regulations set the maximum quantity of grapes that can be produced per hectare of cultivated land. This limit aims to control production and ensure consistent quality.
Vinification and Aging. The disciplinary regulations may provide details on the vinification methods and possible aging techniques for the wine. For example, it may establish the minimum aging period in wooden barrels or in bottle before release to the market.
Alcohol Content. The minimum alcohol percentage for Etna Rosso wine is determined, which can vary depending on the specific disciplinary regulations.
Labeling. The disciplinary regulations indicate the mandatory information to be included on the bottle label, such as the name of the denomination, the grape variety used, the producer’s name, and other essential details.
Controls and Certifications. The disciplinary regulations describe the control system and certification procedures to ensure compliance with the regulations and protect consumers.

Adherence to these provisions is essential to obtain the recognition of the Etna Rosso denomination and to guarantee the quality and authenticity of the wine produced on the slopes of Mount Etna.

Nerello Mascalese Single-Varietal Red Wine

II – Nerello Mascalese white wine
The white wine obtained from the Nerello Mascalese grape variety is a surprising and unique discovery in the wine world. While Nerello Mascalese is better known for producing red and rosé wines, this versatile grape also offers the opportunity to create fascinating white wines. Originating from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, Nerello Mascalese captures the unique characteristics of the volcanic terroir, and this is reflected in the white wine produced from it. The color of Nerello Mascalese white wine is a bright straw-yellow with greenish hues. This color reflects the freshness and youthfulness of the wine, inviting exploration of its intriguing aromatic bouquet. On the nose, delicate scents of white flowers, citrus, and subtle notes of white-fleshed fruits emerge, creating an elegant and fragrant olfactory profile.
On the palate, Nerello Mascalese white wine offers a pleasant freshness and lively acidity, typical of wines produced in high-altitude areas like those of Mount Etna. It stands out for its lightness and balanced structure, making it a delightful choice to accompany dishes based on fish, seafood, light appetizers, and vegetable-based first courses.
The production of white wines from Nerello Mascalese is still a niche in the wine world, but it is gaining more attention and appreciation for its originality and distinctive character. This white wine, with its indissoluble connection to the volcanic territory of Mount Etna, offers a fascinating and ever-evolving tasting experience, encouraging wine enthusiasts to discover the lesser-known, yet equally captivating, side of this versatile Sicilian grape.

Nerello Mascalese white wine

III – Nerello Mascalese Rosé Wine
The Rosé wine obtained from the Nerello Mascalese grape variety is a refined and captivating expression of the versatility of this native Sicilian grape. Originating from the slopes of Mount Etna, one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, Nerello Mascalese is perfectly suited for producing high-quality Rosé wine, reflecting the unique characteristics of the volcanic terroir it hails from.
The delicate salmon-pink color of the Nerello Mascalese Rosé wine is a distinctive feature, achieved through a brief maceration of the grape skins during the winemaking process. This allows the must to come into contact with the skins for a short period, resulting in a light extraction of pigments and aromatic compounds. The outcome is a vibrant and inviting color, ranging from pale pink to intense pink, depending on the duration of maceration.
The aromatic bouquet of the Nerello Mascalese Rosé wine is equally captivating, offering a profusion of delicate and fresh fragrances. Notes of ripe red fruits, such as strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, are typical of this wine, contributing to its enveloping and inviting aroma. Subtle floral nuances, such as rose petals or wildflowers, can also be perceived, adding further complexity to the overall bouquet.
On the palate, the Nerello Mascalese Rosé wine stands out for its lively freshness and balanced acidity. Its light structure makes it an ideal choice for summer days and outdoor evenings. The flavors of red fruits harmoniously blend with a pleasant mineral note, which is a distinctive feature of wines produced on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna.
This Rosé wine is highly versatile in gastronomic pairings. Thanks to its freshness and lightness, it pairs beautifully as an aperitif, providing a refreshing start to any meal. It also complements dishes based on fish, seafood, and salads, where its well-balanced acidity perfectly matches the delicate flavors of the ingredients. Moreover, it can be an intriguing choice with light Mediterranean cuisine and vegetable-based dishes.
This Rosé interpretation of Nerello Mascalese captures the essence of the volcanic terroir of Mount Etna, offering a fresh and gratifying tasting experience. With its elegant, harmonious, and pleasantly aromatic profile, the Rosé wine obtained from Nerello Mascalese continues to earn the attention and appreciation of wine connoisseurs worldwide.

Nerello Mascalese Rosé Wine

IV – Nerello Mascalese Sparkling Wine
Nerello Mascalese, both in its Metodo Classico and Metodo Charmat versions, offers an extraordinary interpretation in both white and rosé variations, enriching the profile of this Sicilian grape variety.
Nerello Mascalese Metodo Classico, also known as the traditional method, represents an excellent expression of the potential of this grape for producing high-quality sparkling wines. With the Metodo Classico, the wine undergoes bottle fermentation, developing fine bubbles and a richness of refined aromas. Nerello Mascalese Metodo Classico white sparkling wines surprise with a bright straw-yellow color and a fine, persistent perlage. On the nose, they offer a fragrant and complex bouquet, with notes of white flowers, citrus, and white-fleshed fruits, enriched by delicate nuances of toasted bread and yeast. On the palate, they stand out for pleasant freshness, balanced structure, and remarkable persistence. Nerello Mascalese Metodo Classico rosé sparkling wines, on the other hand, captivate with their elegant pink color and delicate perlage. They delight the palate with a harmonious combination of red fruits and citrus, accompanied by lively acidity and pleasant softness.
Nerello Mascalese Metodo Charmat, also known as the Martinotti or autoclave method, offers an equally interesting alternative for producing sparkling wines. In this case, the refermentation occurs in an autoclave, resulting in a wine with fresh and lively bubbles. Nerello Mascalese Metodo Charmat white sparkling wines present a pleasant straw-yellow hue and a joyful perlage. On the palate, they delight with fruity notes of peach and citrus, wrapped in a pleasant softness. Nerello Mascalese Metodo Charmat rosé sparkling wines, on the other hand, offer a delicate pink hue and a fine, persistent perlage. With lively freshness and a light hint of berries, they captivate the senses with their elegance and refinement.
Both with the Metodo Classico and the Metodo Charmat, Nerello Mascalese once again demonstrates its versatility and ability to adapt to different winemaking techniques, offering sparkling wines of extraordinary quality and character, carrying the magical essence of the volcanic terroir of Mount Etna. With these two sparkling versions, Nerello Mascalese proves to be a surprising and fascinating variety, capable of satisfying the most discerning palates and providing unique and unforgettable tasting experiences.

Nerello Mascalese Sparkling Wine

V – Nerello Mascalese Spirits
The grappa obtained from Nerello Mascalese is a high-quality and prestigious distillate that embodies the soul and distinctive characteristics of this Sicilian grape variety. The production of grappa begins with the harvesting of Nerello Mascalese grapes destined for winemaking. After the grapes are pressed and the must is extracted, what remains are the pomace, which includes the solid residues of the grapes, such as seeds, skins, and solids. These precious pomace are subjected to a distillation process, which extracts the essential oils, aromas, and flavors present in the skins and seeds.
During the distillation process, the Nerello Mascalese pomace is heated, and its alcoholic content evaporates, creating alcoholic vapor that is later cooled and condensed. The result of this process is a clear and transparent distillate with a high alcohol content and an intense and enveloping aromatic profile. Nerello Mascalese grappa is characterized by a refined and complex aromatic bouquet, reminiscent of the olfactory profile of the red and rosé wines produced from this grape variety.
On the nose, one can perceive clear fruity notes of ripe cherries, succulent black cherries, and fragrant raspberries, accompanied by delicate floral hints of violets and roses. This intense fragrance is complemented by a subtle mineral note, a distinctive characteristic of the volcanic soils of Mount Etna, which further enriches the overall aroma of the distillate.
Nerello Mascalese grappa offers a pleasant tasting experience, with a smooth and full-bodied flavor. The tannins from the Nerello Mascalese pomace contribute to making the distillate soft and rounded on the palate, creating a velvety and harmonious sensation.
The taste persistence is remarkable, with a long and pleasantly lingering finish.
The grappa obtained from Nerello Mascalese is a fascinating discovery for spirits enthusiasts and represents an authentic expression of the volcanic territory of Mount Etna. Each sip of this grappa conveys the magical essence of volcanic soils and vines grown on the slopes of this iconic Sicilian volcano. Nerello Mascalese grappa is a true tribute to the Sicilian winemaking tradition and offers an unforgettable tasting experience, bringing the palate closer to one of the most captivating enogastronomic treasures of Southern Italy.

grappa obtained from Nerello Mascalese is a high-quality and prestigious distillate
Nerello Mascalese

Nerello Mascalese

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