Calabretta - Etna's Old Vine, Old School Master

Calabretta - Etna's Old Vine, Old School Master

As recent times have seem Etna's celebrity star rise and rise, along with it has come a huge influx of international investment and modernization, yet Massimiliano's wines seem to harken back to an old-school, old world traditionalism that we rarely have the chance to glimpse these days. 

Unique among his Etna peers in that he releases his wines only after extensive aging in botte grande and then bottle, his releases are often six to eight years behind most other producers on the volcano, with many of them drawing fruit from 80-100+ year old vines on original rootstocks from some of Etna's top sub-zones. 

There is an old Nebbiolo-like profile to the estate's red wines; the aromas are steeped in dried cherries, tar, licorice, and hints of ashy/volcanic soil tones, with a cool-climate  freshness and delineation that recalls a mature Barolo, northern Rhone or even a sturdier, earthier red Burg. His elusive Carricante retains such a zen like drive and precision that it makes hard to believe the wine sneaks in under $50 a bottle, let along under $30!

These are wines that are all at once meditative, challenging and supremely delicious, and given the impeccable provenance and built in maturation, these are also wines that represent some of the most terrific value juice on our shelves.

Calabretta's rarely seen Carricante bottling is the best value bottle of white wine to be found on Sicily. Period. Crisp structure and a deep and incisive volcanic minerality carry highlights of white pear, lemon oil, and green apples. Yet, it's the crystaline core of pulverized volcanic soil that ultimately grabs one by the shoulders and all but shakes you to life. Vines range in age from a selection of 100+ yr-old through some younger plantings and fermentation and aging is done in steel, a huge factor in how this Carricante maintains that sleek and taut structure, buffered with those deep and textural traits old-vine hallmarks.  


The artist formerly known as Etna Rosso (Massi withdrew his wines from DOC classification in 2004) the newly released 2010 vintage offers a fresher and more vibrant upswing from the most recent 2008 vintage. The whiff of savory, almost animalistic rusticity still lies within yet it's nestled comfortably in a core of pure, meditative fruit. Pretty strawberry, red cherry and violet aromas and flavors are complicated by hints of fresh ginger, white pepper, lemon peel and camphor. The finish here is long and perfumed with outstanding juicy cut and with suave, polished tannins. This is a triumph. Poised, balanced, stunning.


One of the few mono-varietal bottlings of the grape on Etna (Cappuccio is highly prone to disease), the 2014 presents an extremely strong case for what is normally regarded as the ‘back-up singer’ to the more widely planted Mascalese. Pungent red rose, violet and lavender nuances complicate fresh red cherry and red berries on the nose and palate. Tactile and saline, it’s a juicy mouthfeel that is quickly tempered by a delicate floral/herbal high note. This is one of those wines that simply brims with personality and what it may lack technical “correctness,” it makes up for in the fact that it’s one of those rare wines that seems to possess its own logic – a depth and soulfulness all of its own.


Massimilano Calabretta is practically Biondivino family! He and his ethereal Etna wines are about as near and dear to our hearts as people and wines go within these walls....