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Masseria del Pino I nove Fratelli, Sicily 2018

5 in stock

Federica and Cesare left their life in Catania in 2005 (where she worked as an archery teacher and he as an airline pilot) in search of a simple, peaceful, hard-working lifestyle and purchased this tiny, unique 1.7ha clos planted with 120-140yo vines in the Contrada del Pino.

Located on the slopes of Mount Etna at 800m, uphill from Randazzo, this is the highest altitude at which nerello mascalese and cappucio can reliably and consistently ripen. They also have 400 ancient olive trees (from which they produce three exceptional olive oils from the san benedetto, coratina and brandofino cultivars), chestnut and oak trees, a vegetable garden, sheep, dogs, chicken... Among the vines you also find many fruit trees – cherry, pear, plum, fig, peach, apple. This is Etna in all its pastoral serenity with the sight, scents and sounds of the volcano to stimulate the senses.

Viticulture here eschews herbicides, fungicides, pesticides but they don't follow any prescribed rules. The health of the vineyard is paramount, and they also never buy in rootstock, grafted vines or young plants from nurseries which could introduce problems, instead practising marcottage, when a long branch is buried, sprouts its own root system and forms its own new vine. Moreover, 90% of the vines are planted on their own rather than being grafted onto American rootstock. The vines radiate good health, helped by a mix that Cesare and Federica make themselves from organic fertiliser, cow dung, ash, molasses and minerals, which they ferment then spray.

Winemaking is straight forward, grapes are currently destalked for the red and foot trodden in open vats (but from 2019 all their wines will be made from whole bunches), ageing takes place in old 500ltr barrels for 16 months and bottling is done with partial filtration (just the wine at the bottom of each barrel) and next to no added sulphur up to 2017, none from 2018 onwards.

I Nove Fratelli is made from 120 to 140yo vines on the ancient terraces of a north facing clos at 800m altitude above Randazzo. Working organically and tending the vines meticulously, Cesare and Federica bring in a minute yield (averaging 14hh) into their palmento (winery) and after destalking trod the grapes by foot in ancient vats made of volcanic basalt. An open-air fermentation begins, the cap is punched for a few days, then it’s not touched bar keeping the cap moist for the rest of the cuvaison, after which the wine is decanted off into one 300ltr and five 600ltr barrels, with the solids pressed and added, and the wine then remains until bottling after partial filtration 16 months later. These primitive techniques have changed little since vines first appeared in Contrada Pino in the 9th century, and one can imagine this is what the wine might have tasted like back then. It is a profound Etna Rosso, very close to the grapes, richly flavoured with black cherry, balsamic spices, and a fresh-laid-tar suggestion often found in young Barolo but with a lovely acidity keeping everything in focus. Its gripping, yet silty-fine tannin is a trademark of wines from Contrada Pino and there is much more freshness and energy than you find in many Etna Rosso that weigh in at 15% or more. Very low sulphur level of around 15mg/l total.

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