This was another almost amazing find on the north side of Etna. From reading local Italian wine blogs there were almost mythical mentions of a brilliant winemaker with some amazing vineyards near Rovittello. But, in a world where almost everything is on the internet, was there any mention anywhere of even an address? And so, in my travels, I set out to find Torre Mora.
I first drove back and forth through Rovittello twice without seeing even a hint of anything. But, when I was almost ready to give up and drive further west to a possible prospect whose wines were also well regarded, I saw a rough hand painted sign that said "Torre Mora" on the right side of the road and with a small shed like building on the other side of the dirt parking area. Always up for an adventure, I drove in to find the very intriguing Beppe who is the winemaker and estate manager.
One delightful part of the overall experience in finding very expressive and interesting wines all around Europe are the winemakers that I meet. On one hand, they are all connected to the earth where they source their amazing fruit but on the other hand, they also seem to transcend into another dimension with their insights and skills. There is almost a mischievous look in the eyes of most of them that from their own deep understanding of their terroir but also that the grapes will be different every year, they are always intrigued and stimulated by the challenge of making the most expressive wines possible each year.
Expressiveness in wines is also an expression of the true art of wine making in naturally fermented wines. While a lot of "rock star" winemakers are mainly creating their concoctions with the help of cultured yeasts and other manipulations such as lots of new oak with specific toasts, naturally fermented wines require far more insight, skill, and inspiration. First of all, there has to be a deep understanding of the characteristics of the grapes each year. Secondly, within the realities of a huge number of complex decisions to make during the vinification process, to keep both a light hand in letting the fruit express itself but firm control in maintaining the quality of the wine.
In the two Torre Mora wines selected, a 100% Carricante Etna Bianco and a 100% Nerello Mascalese Etna Rosso, I feel that I have definitely found the full expression of both varietals and the terrain where the grapes are grown. What I also then found, however, were other realities of the modern "wine business." Although the wines of Torre Mora had almost mythical status among locals in the know, the realities of the wine business is that in a very competitive industry, that wines need to be actively marketed to be commercially successful. And so, Torre Mora wines are marketed by the Piccini Group in Tuscany who has also restored an ancient building in the middle of the vineyards to show the heritage of how wines had once been made in the region. Although maybe not quite as romantic, however, for the full expression of the grapes each year, I prefer to see the state of the art equipment so skillfully used by Beppe in the shed that I almost didn't even find.
Etna in the distance
"Scalanera" - terraces of black rock
A 1,200 year old rock path down to the ancient winery
An ancient guardian of the vineyards!
“Scalunera” Etna DOC Bianco 2020 (OF, NF)
This is 100% Carricante from 40 year old vines at an elevation of around 2,500 feet near Rovittello on the north side of Etna. Aromas include pears, citrus, lemons, green apple, honeysuckle, jasmine, and a hint of lime zest. Flavors include honeydew melon, pear, pineapple, green apple, and Meyer Lemon. There is a medium to full body, perfect balance and acidity, and a rich, lush, and full minerally finish.
Food pairings would include sole, crab, shrimp, scallops, halibut, red snapper, sea bass, clams, mussels, calamari, seafood soups, pasta, and salads, veal, pork, chicken cordon bleu, risotto, sauteed mushrooms, Asian pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetable dishes, spring rolls, chicken and pork enchiladas, pasta with creamy sauces, gnocchi, mild, medium, and rich cheeses, and green salads.
“Scalunera” Etna DOC Rosso 2018 (OF, NF)
This is 100% Nerello Mascalese from 60 year old vines at an elevation of around 2,500 feet near Rovittello on the north side of Etna. Aromas include dark cherries, dark plums, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, ripe red peaches, and hints of dark chocolate. Flavors include blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, dark cherries, and cantaloupe. There is a medium to full body but with feeling of lightness and elegance across the palate, perfect balance and acidity, and a persistent and minerally full finish.
Food pairings would include Filet Mignon, New York Steak, short ribs, beef stew, lamb, veal chops, pork chops, pork shoulder, wild boar, elk, duck, chicken, shrimp, swordfish, tuna, clams, mussels, seafood pasta and soups, cassoulet, coq au vin, pasta with meat sauce, Asian beef, pork, and chicken dishes, Indian lamb curries and Tandoori dishes, Mexican beef and pork dishes, charcuterie, and medium to rich cheeses.