Gaja’s New Joint Venture in Sicily Bedding in Nicely With An Impressive Second Etna Rosso 2018 Release…

IDDA is an exciting joint venture winery project between Angelo Gaja of Piedmontese fame and Alberto Graci that may have passed some people by unnoticed when its first red was released post lockdown 1.0 in July 2020. Together they own 20+ hectares of vineyards in the villages of Belpasso and Biancavilla which are currently planted with Nerello Mascalese and Carricante located at 700 to 800 metres above sea level on the south-western slopes of Etna where only three other wineries are located.

The 2017 was the first vintage of the IDDA Etna Rosso red and a pretty smart effort it was as well. However, 2017 was from a much warmer, riper vintage and while the finished product in the bottle was very high quality, the cooler, fresher, more ethereal expression of 2018 is for me, far more typical of the lighter, more elegant styles of wine associated with Etna and more specifically, the Nerello Mascalese grape.

Gaja Idda 2018 Etna Rosso, 14.5% Abv.

Fermentation and maceration for the 2018 Rosso lasted for around three weeks, partially in oak and partially in concrete vats. The wine then spent a further 24 months ageing in oak and concrete. The 2018 is fabulously bright, lifted and perfumed with a pale translucent cherry red colour. There are pretty aromatics of dried rose petals, violets, potpourri, musk and earthy red bramble berry fruits supported by a complementary leafy sapidity and dusty, peppery, five spice nuances. On the palate an impressive clarity and purity of fruit is notable with cool juicy red berries, red cherry, bitter almonds, grilled herbs and slightly drying, chewy, grippy volcanic basaltic mineral tannins on the finish. Already beautifully harmonious and elegant, this wine certainly doesn’t lack any focus and structure in its youth and is undoubtedly a vintage perfectly suited to Etna and Nerello Mascalese where the purity and finesse of the fruit finds a wonderful symmetry with the freshness and minerality. This has class written all over it. Drink from release and over 8 to 12+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fine Wine Safari New Release Review – Tasting the IDDA Etna Rosso From Angelo Gaja and Alberto Graci…

Sicilian wines are now super trendy undoubtedly helped in no small part by the fabulous tourism industry on the island and the incredible gastronomic feasts tourists enjoy on their visits. Sicilian food is some of the very best! Wine too is part of the life blood of Sicily, just as it is on the mainland, but the wines of Etna are cut from a totally different cloth. They are not the usual ripe, plush sunshine offerings of Nero d’Avola but far more intricate, earthy, ethereal mineral expressions that have more in common with Burgundy than the Mediterranean.

So IDDA is an exciting new joint venture winery project between Angelo Gaja of Piedmontese fame and Alberto Graci. Together they own 20 hectares of vineyards in the villages of Belpasso and Biancavilla which are currently planted with Nerello Mascalese and Carricante. 2017 is the first vintage of the IDDA Etna Rosso red and a pretty smart effort it is as well.

Gaja Idda 2017 Etna Rosso, 14.5% Abv.

A lot of expectations are built around tasting this maiden release of Gaja’s Etna Rosso, the first from Angelo and Gaia Gaja’s new project on the island of Sicily. This is an archetypal Nerello Mascalese expression with fabulous savoury earthy berry aromatics, overt sous bois, hedge row spice, volcanic minerality and a high toned basaltic, stony dustiness that attempts to court the subtle fragrant herbal notes and dried potpourri sapidity lurking beneath. Unmistakably Sicilian … until one starts to imagine sleek Nebbiolo notes lurking in the glass. The texture is certainly classic Nerello Mascalese and teases the palate with the lighter, sleeker more supple notes similar to glass of Pinot Noir cut with a slug of Langhe Nebbiolo and its accompanying tannin rusticity. All in all, this is a very precise wine, expertly crafted and moulded with vibrantly fresh acids and a seamlessly polished accessibility. Never easy launching a maiden vintage of any wine, but this expression certainly shows the incredible potential for future, more finely honed releases. Drink and enjoy this wine now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

It’s Nero d’Avola But Not As You Know It – Tasting The Tenuta di Fessina ERO 2013…

Tenuta di Fessina is an winemaking project which took shape based on Silvia Maestrelli’s love of the land. In 2007, with the help of winemaker Federico Curtaz, who had worked as Gaja’s agronomist for twenty years, the Tuscan wine producer purchased an old vineyard of Nerello Mascalese grapes dating back to the past century. In the middle of the vineyard stood a true gem: an eighteenth -century lava millstone with the chianca – the winepress – still intact.

L’vigne di Fessina, as the locals have always called the Rovittello vineyards, located in the town of Castiglione di Sicilia, show all the love and care poured into them by the previous owners over generations. Their ERO is produced from Nero d’Avola fruit sourced in Val di Noto, south west of Syracuse.

In 2013, a dry spring followed a long and not too hot summer. August and September were characterized by abundant and unusual rainfall, favouring a slower and gradual maturation of healthy grapes with an interesting aromatic profile. After a rather cold and wet September, an October of fine dry weather followed, which allowed for a favourable harvest with fully healthy Nero d’Avola grapes.

Tenuta di Fessina ERO Nero d’Avola 2013, DOC Sicilia, 12.5 Abv.

Fantastically expressive nose of ripe red and black berry fruits, sun dried cranberries, bruised black plums, stewed winter fruits, wet straw and subtle peacan pie and molasses hints. While there are ripe, raisined black berry notes, you’d be mistaken for thinking this was just another run of the mill, over-ripe, sun drenched, sweet fruited, simple Nero d’Avola from Sicily. While the fruit for ERO is not from the Etna region where the winery is situated, it is handle in a more delicate Etna’ish manner, showing wonderful freshness, elegance and delicacy on the palate. The palate bristles with fresh acids, suave textured red fruits, cranberries, raspberries and logan berry with a delicious underlay of chalky, mineral tannic grip. So cool, so elegant, so fresh, this wine totally defies the stereotypical style of Nero d’Avola. Already 5 years old, this wine is as fresh as a daisy and should drink very well for another 6 to 8+ years. A really classy expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Cutting Edge Cos Pithos Rosso 2015 ~ A Biodynamic Sicilian Block Buster…

Another quick review of a new vintage of one of my favourite Sicilian red wines. Cos Pithos Rosso 2015 from Vittoria, made biodynamically from Nero d Avola and Frappato, fermented in Amphorae, and bottled with minimal sulphur additions.


At COS, Giusto Occhipinti’s Pithos Bianco and Pithos Rosso are named after the 400 litre giare or pithos that are buried in the floor of the winery. The white, pure Grecanico, is redolent of wild herbs, whilst the red is an appealingly earthy morello cherry-scented Cerasuolo-style blend. 


Some may wonder what exactly is my fascination with amphorae wines? To be honest, I ask myself the same question regularly. But I think I can confidently surmise it’s got something to do with the extra effort and passion required to want to use these ancient, historical vessels to make wine when stainless steel is plentiful; Also the extra complex earthy, savoury dimension that amphorae impart on the wines fermented inside them, if done properly with precision and an eye for cleanliness. 


Tasting Note: Brilliant, bright ruby translucent colour. Nose is complex, rich, deep and intricate. Strands of earthy black cherry, violets, red plums and peanut brittle are interwoven with stewed plums, black berry crumble and an earthy, savoury, wild forest berry underlay. This 12 Abv. wine is lush, dense, but boldy vibrant and fresh on the palate, with tannins that are slightly chalky, slightly peppery, and slightly salty. All the earthy fruit notes of black plum, pithy cherry and strawberry compote are wrapped up tightly, seamlessly, with a pleasing red fruit infused herbal tea finish. A wine bursting with energy that I really want to drink. Super amphorae effort! (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)