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

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