John Paul Kaminga
Mt. Etna: Girolamo Russo
The wine above comes from Mt. Etna, Sicily's famously active volcano. When I first got into the wine business, you could not find much Etna wine in Massachusetts, just a handful of producers if you searched for them. Today the wines of Etna are better than ever, there's an ever-growing legion of fans, and there are many choices for the discerning palate.
A native of Passopisciaro, Girolamo Russo left the northern slopes of Etna to study piano and teach music. When his father died in 2005 he returned to work his family's vineyards and make wine from them. In 2022 his wines are among the very best of the region, and one might count them as some of Italy's finest. The vines are farmed organically, grapes hand harvested, and fermentations un-inoculated. In the winery, the goal is to express the place where the grapes are grown, and with this in mind the winemaking is kept simple: cold fermentations, moderate maceration times, neutral aging vessels... the wines are fresh and pristine, and there are very few from Etna that we would rather drink.
Fans of Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco who have not tried Girolamo Russo are missing out. The entry-level 'a Rina is a perfect intro to his style, and the wines of Etna in general. We just received the 2019 vintage, and we know that many of you will recognize the label and jump at this opportunity. Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso 'a Rina 2019 - $29 A blend of 94% Nerello Mascalese and 6% Nerello Cappuccio from many small parcels of vines, some of which are over 100 years old, this is an "entry-level" Etna that competes with other wineries' cru-designated bottlings. Energetic and incisive, full of lively red and black fruit notes, as well as myriad herbal and floral tones, hints of pepper and vegetable ash, and a stony and mineral element that infuses an almost salty character with the intense bright fruit on the finish.