Etna wines make me happy.

Mount Etna, a live volcano on Sicily, is the birthplace of my favorite Italian wines.  I especially love the wines from Salvo Foti’s projects, particularly from a collective Etnean effort called “I Vigneri”.  Last night we opened one such Etna Rosso, and as usual I was astounded by the quality, as well as the emotion, inside the bottle.

Etna Rosso is comprised of a blend of Nerello grapes, commonly 80% Nerello Masaclese, and 20% Nerello Cappuccio.  These are the grapes that flourish along the high, windy slopes of Mount Etna.  This desolate, cold terroir is moth to some of the most elegant and firmly beautiful wines you might ever taste.  I find a lovely acidity, as well as that base of mouth-watering minerality to be the common thread amongst them.  The bottle we opened last night was particularly full of bright, young fruit and a deep ashy graphite finish.  It is available from the Wine House in Los Angeles, for under $40.

We opened the wine before I really knew what I was making for dinner, and the result was a pairing that combined in a pleasingly unlikely way.  Who knew Etna Rosso could successfully accompany Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps?

Sautéed celery, mushrooms, carrots, spinach and cauliflower with chick peas and ground turkey (basically anything I had in the fridge).  I seasoned with ginger, garlic and hot pepper flakes, then doused with fish sauce and ponzu for saltiness and acidity.  I think this worked with the wine because of that briny, salty-sour note, as well as the meatiness of the mushrooms and turkey.  Just goes to show you, the better food and wine pairings are not always the most obvious.  Taste everything!

Salvo Foti (Left) enjoying Vinitaly with a couple of Etna Wine Lovers

I love this wine because it reminds me of something our world of wine ratings, celebrity wine makers and wine critics can sometimes forget.  Wine is agriculture.  It is the divine rite of man helping one fruit of the earth into its next natural incarnation.  As Salvo Foti writes on his website, his grandfather once said, “My dears… wine is made with grapes.  Only with grapes”  There is a lovely child-like wonderment in this proclamation.  There is also a soft plea that the world not forget what is already perfect and natural.  There is mystery and loveliness everywhere, if you only stop to look (and taste).