Volcanic Wine Awards: Italy - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Volcanic Wine Awards: Italy

Volcanic Wines International and Wine & Spirits Magazine are pleased to announce the winners of the First Annual Volcanic Wine Awards. In this report, we are sharing the results for the volcanic wines of Italy.

The most sizable contingent of wines in the competition arrived from Mount Etna. Overall, these wines shined consistently for their volcanic character. The best of the whites, based largely on carricante, featured the classic fruit-backwards, mineral-forward volcanic nature of Etna’s terroir. The reds, based on nerello mascalese, offered smoldering red fruit and a savory herbal quality—many of them gritty and with deceptive power for their relatively light frames. While soils on Etna vary considerably from lighter volcanic sands and ash to younger, more stony basalts, few would argue the overall uniformly volcanic makeup of this, the most active volcano in Europe.

The rest of Italy, on the other hand, with wines from regions such as Soave, Campania and Basilicata, were judged more heterogeneously. The highs and lows may be due, in part, to the mixed nature of the soils in these areas where volcanics often mingle with many other substrates. —JS

Parent volcanic material: pale tuffs and basalt lava flows
Silver             D'Angelo     $25     D'Angelo 2020 Aglianico del Vulture
This took a day to evolve toward a structure that felt classical for the region, savory and comfortably ripe. When it was first presented to the panel, the hard edges of oak tannins had not yet integrated with the wine's richness. Since panel did not come to consensus, it was tasted the next day by the competition chairs. At that point, John Szabo MS described it as an "old school Italian wine, remarkable for its level of ripeness and acidity." —CW Tri-Vin Wines & Spirits, New Rochelle, NY

Bronze             Elena Fucci     $29     Elena Fucci 2022 Aglianico del Vulture SCEG
Pascaline Lepeltier MS was surprised by this wine. "I get the structure of a lower-alcohol vintage," she said, comparing this 2022 to some of the other vintages surrounding it. "There's lighter extract, gentle tannins and a peppery vegetal quality on the finish that comes back behind the fruit." Gabriela Davogustto appreciated the balance and the bright acidity that "holds the whole thing together." But, for her, it was a lot of wine. —CW Volio Imports, Seattle, WA

Bronze             Elena Fucci     $49     Elena Fucci 2021 Aglianico del Vulture Titolo Classico
A big red with a lot of power, this brings a sense of sunbaked earth to the blueberry core of flavor. "I liked the rusticity," said Gurvinder Bhatia. "There's an edginess to the tannins underlying red fruit." —CW Volio Imports, Seattle, WA

Bronze             Re Manfredi     $45     Re Manfredi 2018 Aglianico del Vulture
Here's an aglianico that combines rusticity with polish and elegance. It's showing some development with bottle age, building layers of flavor and length. —CW Frederick Wildman & Sons, NY
Parent volcanic material in Vesuvius: basalt lapilli; Avellino and Benevento: Neapolitan yellow tuff and mixed ash and tephra from eruptions of the Campi Flegrei and Vesuvius; Caserta: lavas from basalt to rhyolite from the Roccamonfina volcano
Silver             Villa Matilde     $23     Villa Matilde 2022 Greco di Tufo
Rich fruit complexity sets this wine apart, as does a mineral edge to the toasted lees. It's structured and easy to drink, needing a year n bottle to fully integrate. —CW Kobrand, Purchase, NY

Bronze             Feudi di San Gregorio     $35     Feudi di San Gregorio 2022 Greco di Tufo Cutizzi
Soft, with juicy acidity, this has pure fruit flavors of pear and lemon zest. Several panelists found it to be a varietally true greco, though they hoped for more length and focus in the finish. —CW Terlato Wines, Lake Bluff, IL


Honorable Mention             San Salvatore 1988     $35     San Salvatore 1988 2022 Paestum Rosato Vetere Rosato
Bright and balanced, this struck several panelists as a simple, pleasant rosé. Gurvinder Bhatia liked the red-fruit grip, showing a bit of licorice. —CW Banville Wine Merchants, NY


Gold             Feudi di San Gregorio     $48     Feudi di San Gregorio 2017 Taurasi
Super intense, this wine finds its balance with the dial cranked up to 11. The tannins bring flavor complexity, lasting along with the notes of black olive and humid earth. Gabriela Davogustto found its scent to be classical Taurasi, the wine having matured to a good place, the finish rosy, delivering a lot of pleasure in a generous, dry red. —CW Terlato Wines, Lake Bluff, IL

Gold             Villa Matilde     $43     Villa Matilde 2019 Taurasi
The panel split on this wine but the competition chairs, tasting it the next day, considered it solid gold. There's brightness to the blueberry and bramble flavors, along with bitter tannins that are softening, lending the wine an appealing richness. While panelists appreciated its restraint, they found it to be somewhat technical on first tasting. Later, with air, the wine developed an elegant perfume that kept evolving. John Szabo MS found the tannins refined for aglianico, shepherding flavors of red and black fruit, herbs and spice. —CW Kobrand, Purchase, NY

Silver             Villa Matilde     $39     Villa Matilde 2018 Falerno del Massico Rosso
This aglianico is blended with 20 percent piedirosso, providing what Gurvinder Bhatia described as a spicy lift. There's brightness to the blueberry flavor, holding impressive energy for the vintage at six years of age. Gabriela Davogustto found it to be big, juicy and tannic, while still holding some elegance. —CW Kobrand, Purchase, NY

Bronze             Feudi di San Gregorio     $94     Feudi di San Gregorio 2016 Irpinia Serpico
Gurvinder Bhatia said "this actually did what Irpinia does, delivering an aglianico on the lighter side. It's mouthwatering, and its stemmy tannins would work well with a braise in a sweet tomato sauce. —CW Terlato Wines, Lake Bluff, IL

Honorable Mention             Villa Matilde     $18     Villa Matilde 2019 Campania Aglianico
A clean aglianico with saline notes to its black-olive flavor, this is simple, a little bitter and austere in its underripe tannins. —CW Kobrand, Purchase, NY
Parent volcanic material: varied, though mainly silica and potassium-rich rhyolitic lavas


Silver             Fontana Candida     Fontana Candida 2022 Frascati
While the flavors are reticent, this Frascati gives a mouthwatering mineral sensation, bright with a juiciness in the acidity. "A well-done white from Italy," Pascaline Lepeltier MS said. —CW Frederick Wildman & Sons, NY


Silver             Tenimenti Leone     $25     Tenimenti Leone 2021 Cesanese Lazio Rosso Terra de Leone
A rustic cesanese, concentrated with flavors of plum skin, raspberry and some licorice notes. Gurvinder Bhatia appreciated the quality of the fruit, though he found the wine a little heavy-handed. Gabriela Davogustto thought the acidity saved it in the end, and thought it represented its provenance well. —CW Banville Wine Merchants, NY
Parent volcanic material: deeply weathered to very young and stony basalts
Gold             Carranco     $50     Carranco 2020 Etna Bianco Villa dei Baroni
The deep golden color suggests development and age. The nose follows suit with an oxidative, candied edge of crystallized lime, even as tasters noted fresher scents of forest and herb. A bit honeyed and fully mature, this circles it round, blowsy structure with mineral edges. "It's rich and well made, without losing its volcanic core," said Harrison Spelman. —JS Ethica Wines, Miami, FL

Gold             Alberelli di Giodo     Alberelli di Giodo 2022 Terre Siciliane Carricante
The panel unanimously agreed this defined exceptional carricante: There's lots of depth in the aroma, with significant underlying complexity and subtlety of stones and fruit. There's also genuine concentration and depth at the center of the wine, with a honeyed character and what Harrison Spelman called out as "bracing minerality—the wine feels electric, yet it's easy to enjoy." —JS Panebianco, NY

Gold             Nicosia     Nicosia 2022 Etna Bianco Lenza di Munti
This wine’s subtle aromatics have a typically sulfide-lead edge, more wet stone and mineral water than orchard fruit. Those mineral characters are layered with resinous, green, mountain herbs. The texture is properly firm and tight, the flavor depth lasting with succulent acids in a very gastronomic wine. —JS FX Magner, Shrewsbury, MA

Gold             Tornatore     $35     Tornatore 2022 Etna Bianco
Clean, with scents of lime and an appealingly herbal-resinous note, this is a stony "mountain-style" white with a gentle floral twist, shifting towards lavender and gentian root. A middle weight, with moderate acidity that leaves a sensation of softness, and the friendly warmth of the vintage. "Deep, complex and complete, a mineral wine," said Nacho Monclús. "Very classy." —JS Maze Row Wine Merchant, Healdsburg, CA

Silver             Alta Mora     $35     Alta Mora 2022 Etna Bianco
A classic fruit-backward, stone-forward Etna Bianco, this leads with sulfur-mineral and yeasty-lees notes. The wine is awash with stones and lime juice, while sharp acidity integrates into a balanced finish. Panelists responded to the wine's intensity and depth, but that intensity also created a challenge: "It's a beautiful wine, with complexity, multiple layers and elegance, but it might be tough to drink a whole bottle," said Nacho Monclús. —JS Terlato Wines, Lake Bluff, IL

Silver             Carranco     $100     Carranco 2020 Etna Bianco Contrada Carranco
The pale green-gold color and intriguing, complex scent are just beginning to show development. There's a wide range of aromas on offer, from green herbs to honey and mountain meadow flowers. A smoldering, salty, very volcanic expression, properly gritty, with excellent length—the mineral-water wash on the palate leaves an impression that's volcanic rather than varietal. Josh Greene found it savory and umami-rich in feel as much as in flavor, and Nacho Monclús also commented on the exceptional texture of the wine. —JS Ethica Wines, Miami, FL

Silver             Fessina     $31     Fessina 2022 Etna Bianco Erse
This is a simple Etna Bianco with flinty-grapefruit reduction notes and some phenolic bitterness at the end. There's plenty of substance here, but the wine needs time to integrate. Harrison Spelman found it "easy to enjoy, with green apple scents, a touch of reduction and pleasant evolution—dry, mineral and earthy." —JS Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Silver             Nicosia     Nicosia 2020 Etna Spumante Sosta Tre Santi Brut Metodo Classico
A steely, stony spumante—as it should be from Etna—this has subtle fragrance, crunchy acids, and lively, succulent Meyer lemon fruit. With its length and depth, this has some road to go to fully develop its potential. —JS FX Magner, Shrewsbury, MA

Silver             Nicosia     Nicosia 2023 Etna Bianco Biologico Contrada Monte Gorna
Aromatically closed for the moment; coaxing it allows light almond blossoms and lime zest notes to emerge. Bone dry, with crunchy acids and very good length, this represents the mountain with its impressions of wet stone, flint and sulfur, in the Etna style. Nacho Monclús found it "more expressive and less austere than many, with bakery notes of marzipan; a floral white for an outdoor aperitif." —JS FX Magner, Shrewsbury, MA

Silver             Tasca d'Almerita     $30     Tasca d'Almerita 2023 Salina Tenuta Capofaro Didyme
Once this white warmed up in the glass, its salty, Mediterranean scrub and orange zest flavors took on high tones—Corey Warren compared those high notes to a piccolo, lifting the bitterness and pointing the wine at grilled loup de mer over spring greens—"a summertime delight." —JS Dalla Terra, Napa, CA

Bronze             Fessina     $69     Fessina 2021 Etna Bianco A'Puddara Carricante
The pale yellow-gold color and mellowing nose are showing this wine’s early maturity. It's still grippy and a touch phenolic; Harrison Spelman described it as "crunchy-salty and ripe. The scent is mineral, the palate round and creamy, with a sweetness to the fruit." —JS Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Bronze             Passopisciaro     Passopisciaro 2022 Terre Siciliane Passobianco
Ripe, intensely aromatic with a marked mineral character that's both sulfurous and stony, this chardonnay carries that grapefruit essential oil of reduction common in volcanic whites. But it isn't for everyone, with a leesiness that some found verged on cheesiness. This provoked radically variant reactions among five panelists. —JS T. Edwards Wines, NY

Bronze             Tornatore     $60     Tornatore 2022 Etna Bianco Pietrarizzo
Deep in color, subdued and subtle in its aroma, this hints at flint, honey and a touch of sulfur. There's modest depth of flavor and soft acidity in the Etna Bianco context, for enjoyment on the youthful side. —JS Maze Row Wine Merchant, Healdsburg, CA
Parent volcanic material: deeply weathered to very young and stony basalts
Silver             Fessina     $26     Fessina 2022 Etna Rosato Erse
This bone-dry rosato is pale, greyish-pink in color, delicate in its scents of tart red fruit and resinous herbs. The style led Nacho Monclús to "wish all rosés were like this—it's not a lollipop." Instead it's salty, properly fruit-shy and savor-forward. —JS Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL
Parent volcanic material: deeply weathered to very young and stony basalts
Chairman's Award             Passopisciaro     Passopisciaro 2021 Terre Siciliane Contrada C
Ripe and substantial, this wine's complex aromas integrate a polished sheen of sweet baking spice. There's depth and length in this classic cru, presented with a modern twist, striking in its intensity, in the concentration of fruit. Beautifully made. Harrison Spelman called out the volcanic structure, "with a plus of pretty fruit—floral, pomegranate and cranberry flavors and a mouthwatering, long finish. I would list it at the Waverly Inn." —JS T. Edwards Wines, NY

Chairman's Award             Tasca d'Almerita     $120     Tasca d'Almerita 2017 Etna Rosso VV Tenuta Tascante Contrada Sciaranuova
Pale red garnet, with evolving aromatics, this is still very much alive—properly herbal, it's a wine that seems to have been worth the wait. The palate is broad and substantial with plenty of depth and a tonic, savory, oxidative side. Great length. Harrison Spelman was impressed by the freshness of its berry fruit and the penetrating tannins. Josh Greene found the integration of fruit and tannin held a clear volcanic expression, the wine drinking beautifully right now. Nacho Monclús pegged it as a "world-class Etna wine, aged, but so elegant, with forest floor flavors and more. In perfect balance." —JS Dalla Terra, Napa, CA

Gold             Animaetna     $59     Animaetna 2021 Etna Rosso Animardante
Deep red in color, fine and pure in its fruit scent, this offers ripe-tart raspberry and strawberry notes in a sleek Etna Rosso. On the palate it darkens to slippery tannins awash in black cherry fruit. Smoky, grippy and complete. Harrison Spelman called it out as an exemplary wine—"you can smell the power and density"—while Nacho Monclús agreed, adding, "this would be perfect for a steakhouse." —JS Kobrand, Purchase, NY

Gold             Passopisciaro     Passopisciaro 2021 Terre Siciliane Contrada R
Reserved for now, there's nonetheless plenty of simmering, underlying complexity, and massive structure. This is a long way off from prime drinking but shows terrific promise in its core of ripe-tart red fruit, tightly wound around an iron-mineral core. One panelist recommended this wine for "hard-core volcanic wine drinkers." —JS T. Edwards Wines, NY

Silver             Alberelli di Giodo     Alberelli di Giodo 2021 Terre Siciliane Nerello Mascalese
Showing some development for a 2021, this is properly grainy and gritty on the palate, with orange peel and other tonic herbals and botanical scents. Its savory red fruit is pungent, with a smoky, dark mineral background. —JS Panebianco, NY

Silver             Carranco     $50     Carranco 2019 Etna Rosso Villa dei Baroni
This is holding to its red color, with just a light garnet tinge creeping in. The fruit is present in the aroma, shifting from red into the blue spectrum, signaling high ripeness, some oxidative handling and development with bottle age. Notes of dried flowers and resinous herbs chime in on the broad palate. A ripe, bold, elegant Etna Rosso that lingers after each sip. —JS Ethica Wines, Miami, FL

Silver             Fessina     $28     Fessina 2021 Etna Rosso Il Musmeci Bianco Contrada Caselle
The aroma is lifted and savory, with tart red fruit, smoky and strawberry-driven. Grown on the eastern side of Mount Etna, this wine seems to be influenced by the ash in the soil, its tannins fine and powdery, the structure delicate and refined. Classically styled and, at the same time, approachable. —JS Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Silver             Passopisciaro     Passopisciaro 2021 Etna Rosso Passorosso
This offers an angular take on the mountain, with firm and grippy tannins over smoky-sweet strawberry fruit. It's uncomplicated, with an iron scent over the lean, austere red fruit. —JS T. Edwards Wines, NY

Silver             Planeta     $45     Planeta 2020 Sicilia Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese
A nice core of savory red fruit leads off here, with ripe, slippery tannins and very good length, a superior representation of the 2020 vintage, with excellent balance and impressive length. —JS Taub Family Selections, Port Washington, NY

Silver             Terra Costantino     $50     Terra Costantino 2018 Etna Rosso Riserva Contrada Blandano
This wine's aroma is mature and evolving, but still in good shape, then the palate is lean. Harrison Spelman called it out for "bold tannins in a long, mouthwatering finish. There's not much fruit to speak of, but the wine has depth and complexity." Nacho Monclús found it comforting, “with a tertiary aspect, showing its age well." —JS Banville Wine Merchants, NY

Silver             Tornatore     $60     Tornatore 2020 Etna Rosso Pietrarizzo
A firm, juicy, tonic example of Etna Rosso, this wine's finish is starting to show earthy-mushroom notes, though the fruit hangs on. Nacho Monclús found it had arrived "at a perfect drinking moment—elegant, mature, savory." —JS Maze Row Wine Merchant, Healdsburg, CA

Bronze             Alta Mora     $35     Alta Mora 2020 Etna Rosso
Presented in an old-school, traditional style, this has matured into scents of old wood and vermouth-like oxidation. The iron-oxide tannins are moderating with age, and there's a lick of acetic acid on the back end in a rustic but ultimately appealing expression. —JS Terlato Wines, Lake Bluff, IL

Bronze             Carranco     $220     Carranco 2019 Etna Rosso Contrada Carranco RV
Subtle and shy in the aroma, balanced with a volatile lift on the palate, this wine develops in the glass. It's fully mature, ready to drink, with lasting flavors. —JS Ethica Wines, Miami, FL

Bronze             Nicosia     Nicosia 2020 Etna Rosso Biologico Contrada Monte Gorna
An herbal, refreshing "mountain red" with fruit in the background behind all of the savory elements. The cherry and licorice notes of the fruit are a touch candied, balanced by sharp acidity and light, edgy, sandy-textured tannins. The wine's length and depth are modest, but this makes for a good introduction to Etna and its red wines. —JS FX Magner, Shrewsbury, MA

Honorable Mention             Carranco     $129     Carranco 2019 Etna Rosso Contrada Carranco
Showing its age in a garnet-tinged color and broad, mature flavors, this offers orange zest notes and dusty tannins, the wine a bit past its prime. —JS Ethica Wines, Miami, FL

Honorable Mention             Nicosia     Nicosia 2021 Etna Rosso Lenza di Munti
Scents of hibiscus and dried flowers rise off this wine's raisined, super-ripe fruit. There's a Fernet-like note but the wine lacks the savory, iron-like quality of the best reds from Etna. —JS FX Magner, Shrewsbury, MA

Honorable Mention             Nicosia     Nicosia 2021 Etna Rosso Vulkà
An atypical expression of Mt. Etna, this has an unusually deep color and stressed-fruit notes edge toward sarsaparilla-root beer-cola. There's a sweet-sour tension on the palate, along with rustic tannins in short finish. Panelists found it fruit-forward and drinkable—"maybe not what you'd expect from Etna, but if I got a glass of this, I'd be happy." —CW FX Magner, Shrewsbury, MA
Parent volcanic material in sectors of Soave: basalt ‘pillow’ lava
Silver             Giannitessari     Giannitessari 2023 Soave
Floral pear scents lead into a powerfully rich, ripe Soave that holds its freshness well. Gurvinder Bhatia “liked the energy and vibrancy.” He found some heat in the finish, as did others, but thought a chill would bring that in line. —CW Grapes2Glass, Newark, NJ

Silver             Inama     Inama 2021 Soave Classico Vigneto di Foscarino
Several panelists responded to the middle-weight of this wine—medium in body, alcohol and length. Josh Greene found that the fruit was very pure, while John Szabo MS appreciated the subtlety of the white-fleshed fruit, with a citrus note that hangs on. —CW Dalla Terra, Napa, CA

Bronze             Farina     $15     Farina 2022 Soave Classico Soave Classico
A snappy white with more length than depth, some panelists found this simple, while Gabriela Davogustto appreciated its elegance, minerality and freshness. Pascaline Lepeltier MS found it nuanced and representative of Soave. —CW Banville Wine Merchants, NY

Bronze             Inama     Inama 2021 Soave Classico Grand Cuvee I Palchi Foscarino
Mineral and mouthwatering, this is more about savory tones than fruit. It's ripe, showing density with balancing acidity, said Pascaline Lepeltier MS, while Gabriela Davogustto pointed to its scents of white flowers and pears. Then it ends quickly. —CW Dalla Terra, Napa, CA

Bronze             Inama     Inama 2021 Soave Classico Vigneti il Carbonare
Along with scents of warm pear compote, this showed some oak. Pascaline Lepeltier MS found that oak treatment had made the wine a little finer and denser than is typical for Soave. —CW Dalla Terra, Napa, CA

John Szabo MS is the Toronto-based author of Volcanic Wines (Jacqui Small Publishing 2016), co-founder of Volcanic Wines International, and partner and principal critic at WineAlign.com. He’s also part-time grapegrower on the limestones of Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Corey Warren is the Tastings Editor in addition to covering the wines of the Loire, Southern France, Argentina and South Africa.

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