Andrea Franchetti’s Ethereal Passopisciaro Passorosso – Sicily’s Crown Prince

Fans of the greatest Italian wines of our generation are fondly familiar with Andrea Franchetti, among the most important, indeed the most passionate artists anywhere in Italy. As he describes his first visual encounter with the breathtaking Val d’Orcia when he arrived in 1970, his place here is evident. His estate of Tenuta di Trinoro – which he built in this southeastern corner of Tuscany one meter at a time, by hand – gained cult status with his first release.

Years later, Franchetti mastered the seemingly untamable Sicilian landscape as well. Galloni reported just as favorably,

“Andrea Franchetti wasn’t content to just make profound wines at his Tuscan estate, Tenuta di Trinoro, so he set out to replicate that success at Passopisciaro, his property on Mount Etna.”

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, so the moment these utterly ethereal Sicilians became available for tasting, I seized an opportunity. I’ve witnessed the evolution of Passopisciaro, amazed at the relative values these prodigious treasures represent.

When Franchetti first arrived to the ominous, gloomy, desolate site which would eventually produce his glorious Sicilian concoctions, his visions for the future mirrored those from his first encounters in Val d’Orcia; he was ready for another labor of love. It was the winter of 2000; frigid cold, silent, inauspicious. Franchetti recalls the blackened streets, the churches buried with ash, wineries collapsed everywhere he looked.

Franchetti returned in the summer to find the perfect spot, glistening black in the sun, a wide, sprawling hump of black gravel. This would be the spot; this became the estate of Passopisciaro. This was where time stood still in 1947, where flowing lava simply stopped and it seemed as if the land awaited his arrival.

I have tasted so many versions of what was previously known as Passopisciaro Rosso – now renamed Passorosso – that to describe its nature is futile. It changes every year. One constant remains: the special sites. Upon his arrival in 2000, Franchetti discovered centenarian vines, bush-trained across the northern side of the volcano, altitudes between 1,800 and 3,300 feet; at the edge of that lava spill that went no further.

Franchetti experimented with various varietals at first, realizing the importance of the native, local Nerello Mascalese. Several individual crus are planted: Malpasso, Guardiola, Santo Spirito, Favazza and Arcuria. These single vineyards lend very specific characters to the Nerello Mascalese grapes. It is impossible to define this wine; multiple sites, a single varietal, and yet the ever changing activities of nature. At this altitude, you can lose everything in a night.

One thing however, which every critic and serious consumer of Passorosso / Passopisciaro Rosso agrees, is that there has never – EVER – been a vintage as special, as universally superior in this region as 2014. In the hands of the undisputed master, the wines are surreal…

2014 Passopisciaro Passorosso (Formerly Passopisciaro)

Bright red-ruby. The captivating nose combines strawberry, raspberry, minerals, violet and flint aromas. Creamy-sweet but amazingly light on its feet, offering palate-staining, perfumed flavors of soft red berries, ripe red cherry, vanilla, aromatic herbs and crushed rock. Rich, ripe and suave, but displays a penetrating, saline and energetic quality that gives this beauty a three-dimensional mouthfeel and a light-on-its-feet quality. Finishes with great length and wonderfully polished tannins. Absolute knockout wine: from a memorable vintage on Etna, this is most likely the best Passorosso ever (in earlier vintages, it used to be called simply Passopisciaro). Mainly Nerello Mascalese.

97 points – Antonio Galloni’s Vinous

2010 Pietradolce Etna Rosso “Archineri” ~ Sicily’s Hottest Wine!

Etna Rosso

Hello fellow wine lovers ~

Having now personally tasted several vintages of this truly unique and utterly engaging Sicilian beauty, I fully agree with Galloni’s recent review of the 2010:

“The 2010 Archineri Rosso is striking from start to finish. Sweet, red cherries, flowers, mint, anise and sweet spices are some of the many notes that emerge from this deceptively medium-bodied wine. Although moderately structured at first glance, the 2010 has plenty of depth and equally notable persistence in reserve, qualities that are typical of the great Etna reds. With time in the glass, the wine’s intense structure becomes increasingly apparent. Savory herbs, sage and rosemary add lift on the gracious, refined finish. The 2010 Archineri Rosso is flat-out beautiful today. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2016″
~ Galloni, Wine Advocate
, 92 points

Adding additional fuel to the fire, Italian wine guru James Suckling further praised this delicious Etna born treasure:

“This is delicate but very deep with strawberries, spices and cedar. Full body, with a dense palate, beautiful fruit and a firm tannin structure. This is really corseted with beautiful acidity. Wonderful length. Turns to plums and cedar. Wonderful. A blend of grapes from two sites: one with 40 years of age and another with 80 years of age. Latter is pre-phyloxera. Drink now or hold.”
~ James Suckling, 94 points

~ 2010 Pietradolce Etna Rosso “Archineri”
$34.99/btl + Ground Shipping included on case purchases

For more details regarding the native grape of Sicily – this Nerello grape used in today’s wine – we turn once again to Galloni for his professional review of the grape as well as the region:


“The most exciting region in Sicily, and perhaps Italy, is Mount Etna, where a small number of producers have re-discovered the very unique terrains that lie below this storied volcano. These are the highest-altitude vineyards in Europe. The late-ripening native Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio produce medium-bodied, aromatic reds that stylistically and texturally share much in common with Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. Readers who haven’t spent time yet with the wines from the Etna owe it to themselves to do so. The top wines will challenge long-held assumptions about what Sicilian wines can be all about.
~ Antonio Galloni

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All the best in wine & life,

Christopher Massie, CS

Wine Country Connection