TENUTA DI FESSINA
It’s easy to point to Federico Curtaz, one of the founders of Tenuta di Fessina and former chief agronomist at Angelo Gaja as the reason for Tenuta di Fessina’s success in the unique landscape that is Etna and its wineries, however most of the brilliance lies with his business partner Silvia Maestrelli. Indeed, Curtaz has now moved on to other consulting roles, leaving Maestrelli with the not-so-small task of running one of the hottest wineries in Sicily. Of Tuscan origin, Maestrelli has become one of the forces of the Etna wine industry, imparting not only marketing nous (her profession), but also an undeniable love for the terroir of Etna and the wines which it can produce, especially those based on Carricante. Under her stewardship, the estate is making its best wines ever, consistently within the top 5 Etna estates for the world's most important wine journos.
The immensely fertile soil but otherwise harsh landscape of Etna is where Silvia sees the charm and potential for this variety in the Eastern and southern parts, while the Nerello Mascalese is grown on the home block in the North. The winemaking is superbly judged, with a focus on maintaining the mineral freshness and complexity brought forth by the combination of soil and altitude that makes Etna so unique. The most straightforward parallel that can be drawn for the white wines is cru Chablis, while the reds from this house resemble something between the reds from Burgundy and Nebbiolo grown in Barbaresco, though perhaps with more energy than either.
These releases make me believe that Etna is still the hidden gem that I thought it was three years ago when I started importing these wines. To be honest, the price/quality ratio compared even to Piedmont feels as though the wines from Etna – particularly considering the past few incredible vintages there – are going nowhere but north, fast. Get in while they’re still very attainable.