Grape varieties: Nerello mascalese
Passopisciaro produces six different bottlings of Nerello mascalese, the native grape to Mt. Etna, in order to showcase the profound differences in the terroir – lava flow, aspect, and altitude – of the various contrade that we work with. The vines are all between 70-100 years old, and the nerello harvest typically occurs at the end of October/early November. The wines undergo fermentation in steel vats, followed by malolactic and 18 months aging in large neutral oak barrels; this minimal intervention approach to winemaking allows the differences in terroir to shine.
Contrada Guardiola is an ancient domain between 800 and 1,000 m (2,600 to 3,300 ft) above sea level, on the edge of the lava flow from Etna’s 1947 eruption. It produces a deep and complex wine with a rich taste of red fruit. They make this wine from a careful selection of some of their older Nerello mascalese vines, which they started bottling separately beginning in 2011.
2012 was a hot and dry year, with no rain from May to October – one of the warmest summers we’ve had on Etna. At the beginning of October they started tasting the grapes in the vineyards, but everything was quite unripe. The sugar was high while the acidity was low, and yet the plants were highly stressed to the point that the grapes were almost raisinated on the vine. All of the other winemakers harvested early as a result, but we felt the grapes’ pH was still too low and the alcohol too high to follow suite, instead irrigating and waiting for the grapes to mature properly. They risked losing the harvest, but finally the rains came. After just two days, the components – sugars and acidity – came into balance, and so they harvested very quickly. Fortunately, Nerello mascalese is a strong vine, and even in the worst years it can be revived.
They harvested in this Contrada on October 24th and 26th. As big as Porcaria, this year’s wine from Guardiola is lighter-footed and more complex. It is minerally, ravishing, with lots of red fruit; lean, sticky, and velvety. It strongly evokes the mineral world.
Vineyard age: 80 years
Vineyard density: 8,000 vines per Ha
Vineyard altitude: 550 m a.s.l.
Yield per hectare: 20 Hl/Ha
Spraying: Clay, propolis, sulphur, copper, grapefruit seed extract
Harvest: 23-31 October
Vinification: Alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel vats for 10 days
Aging: Malolactic fermentation followed by 18 months aging in large, neutral oak barrels