Archives for June, 2012

Tour of Sicily 12-Tenuta di Fessina

Federico Curtaz

What a lovely place Etna. And in the spring is better as flowers along the vines make me happy.

I have arrived at Contrada Rovittello and Tenuta di Fessina, an increasingly important area as it becomes known for Etna Rosso DOC wines, and I am here to taste those of Federico Curtaz (pictured) in Castiglione di Sicilia.

The hero wine is Musmeci, clearly made from the star grape on this hillside (665 metres), the nerello mascalese. Federico’s Tuscan owners Silvia Maestrelli and Roberto Silva have taken over vines in 2007 planted over thirty years ago, and some 60-100 year-old “monuments”. The winery building is older however at 240 years.

Of course these 7 hectares of old plantings are mixed variety, mostly mascalese but also a small percentage of nerello capuccio (5-8-10%, depending on plot), and the occasional white vines of both carricante and catarratto are found.

The soil is poor; it is heavily eroded lava stone, drains freely and has no clay layers. The wine is essentially a product of the soil, neatly captured and showing some amazing characters. Etna naturally blasted this vineyard as a “clos” or enclosed vine space about 130 years ago.

Tried were 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 bottlings of Musmeci (named after a former vine tender). The 2010 (92) 14% is looking young, so closed on the day, nice fruit, even passionfruity that the flavours are some delicate-light; tannins still furry, mineral and fine; 2009 (89) 13%, looks tops in colour, just a more solid drink, sturdy, a mix of green mint and green herbs, quite austere now; 2008 (91) 14%, is a drinking wine now, quite aged to view, honied, some volatile bits, chunky, grippy tannins tending green, powdery, will live a little, not sure how; 2007 (88) 14%; top colour, aromas of dried herbs, dusty nose, and drying out on palate, developing interesting feral notes, powdery (elevation thing).


In summary these wines have great texture, weight but not overtness, presence but not any brutish parts; they stand subtle and shape your mouth. Tasting them demands patience and the best comes out as a mouthful of food blends with the nerello. Oak aging is behind the wines, not obvious, and I discovered 3-4000 litre barrels, some new, is the choice of container.

The remaining taste was bizarre:Puddara 2010 (88) 12.5%; large barrel-aged carricante, for a wine style that is slim and acute in acidity, sometimes mean in the mouth, whereas this is mineralised by taking on funky notes from the barrel phase (and lees); made from 60 year-old vines.

Old Nerello-alberello trained

An Old Lady returns-Seppeltsfield

For years I have driven past the Seppeltsfield property and always had the same personal thoughts-what an under-utilised site.

Well that has changed. The big ticket item from this Barossa gem has been the 100 year-old vintage dated fortified tawny wines.

Since inception they were under the care of the Seppelt family until being laid at the feet of corporate ownership whereby the necessary investment in its future could not be met. The last owner being Fosters Wine Estates

A few years ago ownership changed hands to interests associated with the Clare brand Kilikanoon.

Management of this property needs buckets of money, and many in the past have looked hard to find any part of a bucket extra called profit.

About two years ago McLaren Vale grape entrepreneur Warren Randall appeared from over the Adelaide Hills to take a majority stake and has been the driver in setting Seppeltsfield’s new direction.

My first taste of a wine from this property with ancient grapevines is the Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2010 (AUD 29); 14%, a wine with more colour than the usual Barossa-based grenache. It reeks of chunk. Big boy there.

Seppeltsfield Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2010-from historical bushvines

The Seppeltsfield activity is very similar to the region-wide investments of the past two decades which have occurred in northern Sicily (Etna Rosso DOC) around the volcano.

Here new investors have purchased 100+ year-old gravity-fed wineries (palmentos) and refitted them with modern equipment.

On Etna the vineyards surrounding these properties are 60-90 years-old to go with the package. Of interest though Seppeltsfield have re-commissioned their original gravity flow red production facility whereas the Italians chose to go new.

So I like the red blend, it’s got density from the shiraz (and touriga, a fortified variety known for colour), and it does not let out much generosity. The tannins are soft but it stays composed-its keeping the best flavours close to its chest at present.

Seppeltsfiled’s other red blends are equally engrossing. Maybe there are two buckets of money to be made from these excellent reds. Look out for them and buy one.

Last year’s Barossa Valley Wine Show Trophy

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