Pietradolce – White and red wines from the foothills of Mount Etna

Pietradolce is a relatively new winery, established in 2005, by Michele Faro and family. The family’s original small vineyard holdings have been augmented by hard won purchase from local farmers (‘contadini’) and now boast vines up to 120 years of age. The winery and vineyards, in Solicchiata, are a stone’s throw from the crater of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.

Pietradolce winery with Etna in background

Directly translated ‘pietradolce’ means sweet stone, and this is a reference to the stony, rugged terrain of the foothills of Mt Etna, where the vineyards are often terraced with the volcanic rocks moved to form them. The vines are nourished by rich volcanic soils and flourish in the cool climate of the northern and eastern slopes at between 600 and 900 metres above sea level. Most of the older plantings are “bush” pruned, with younger vines espaliered.

100 year old Nerello Mascalese vines in ‘Vigna Barbagalli’ 900 metres above sea level

These wines are unique, made from native Italian varietals: Carricante with its steely, pure acidity and complex, subtle mineral and fruit notes, and Nerello Mascalese with its misleading pale-ish colour and soft persistent, red fruits, hints of tobacco and fine tannins.

When I say a “stone’s throw” from the crater, the winery is approximately 50 kilometers away from Mount Etna, but its awesome power enables it to send the odd lava bomb over that distance.

Pietradolce Etna Bianco DOC 2014 is entirely Carricante, fermented in stainless steel. Bright, pale and slightly lemon-tinged, shy but vibrant, crisp and savoury with hints of minerals, pear, peach and nectarine. This expressive wine with its cleansing acidity begs for a plate of seafood. 13%a/v, Diam closure – $A35.

Pietradolce Etna Bianco ‘Archineri’ DOC 2014 is again 100% Carricante, this time from vines 100-120 years old, grown at 850m above sea level on the eastern slopes of Mt Etna. Pale colour, lemon tinged, this is super-intense, pure, long and fine showing nectarine and grapefruit nuances, with slaty acidity. This has such poise and balance, it should age well over three to five years. 13.5% a/v, good quality cork – $A65.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC 2014 is made from Nerello Mascalese grown on the northern slopes of Mt Etna. The pale-ish brick red colour is disarming, as the wine is fragrant showing wild berry red fruits over a silky palate framed by firm but ripe tannins. I have never tasted volcanic soil, but with the power of suggestion there is an underlying smoky/earthy/ferrous complexity which is intriguing and alluring. This has spent a modest amount of time in oak and is for current drinking, particularly with roasted white meats. 14% a/v, Diam closure – $A35.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso ‘Archineri’ DOC 2013 is all Nerello Mascalese from 80-90 year old vines grown at 850m above sea level on the northern slopes of Mt Etna. Colour is medium dense and both nose and palate display abundant red fruit characters. Very serious wine, lively, flavoursome and balanced, textured and spicy with fine tannins. It spent approximately 14 months in oak (20% new) and has extra layers of richness and complexity to show for it. Drinking well now this wine has the balance and depth to age for another four to five years. 14% a/v, quality cork – $A65.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso DOC 2013 is no longer available but my tasting notes from October 2014 record a light brick red colour, fragrant red cherry fruit, ripe gentle tannins; quite rich and savoury. Very drinkable wine

These wines are imported into Australia by Trembath & Taylor (www.trembathandtaylor.com.au) and are well worth seeking out for their uniqueness and quality.

E. Guigal – Cotes du Rhone 2011
Guigal CDR

Guigal is rightly acclaimed for its flagship wines, among them notably La Landonne, La Mouline, La Turque and Chateau d’Ampuis from the Northern Rhone appellation of Cote Rotie. In this company it is easy to forget that the firm also produces fine wines from all corners of the Rhone Valley, including generic Cotes du Rhone.

Etienne Guigal, founder of the firm, first worked for Vidal-Fleury before establishing his own business in 1946; Vidal-Fleury is now owned by Guigal, having been purchased in the mid 1980’s. The gorgeous Chateau d’Ampuis now headquarters of the Guigal business was acquired in 1995 and extensively restored. Other acquisitions have followed.

The foresight, energy and passion of the Guigal family is obvious in everything they do.

For example, not content with the brilliance of La Mouline, first produced by Marcel Guigal (Etienne’s son) in 1966, Marcel, recognizing the quality and possibilities of the vineyards comprising La Landonne went to great lengths to secure them. Quoting from Livingstone-Learmonth & Masters’ The Wines of the Rhone Valley, Marcel says “You can’t imagine the trouble we went to in order to buy up the La Landonne vineyard. It belonged to seventeen small holders, and I am sure I shall never have to be so patient again when it comes to buying a vineyard. It took more than ten years, buying each plot individually…” La Landonne was launched with the 1978 vintage. Read More >

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2012, Waipara, New Zealand
Peg ssb

It is definitively a product of old vines or perhaps I am showing my age, as it seems like I have been drinking this wine (Pegasus Sauvignon Semillon) for as long as I can remember.

The Donaldson family, pioneers of the Waipara Valley, declare that 2012 was the latest harvest in memory with the semillon picked in late May, a seriously long hang-time!  Couple this with vines that are over a quarter-of-century old and a low crop, it is an incredibly concentrated wine with a cut and thrust that is exhilarating, yet poised and oozing class and balance with a length of flavour that will outlast your memory.

What I get immediately is an exotic perfume of feijoa and grilled pineapple with a background of mandarin and orange zest; there are some sweeter notes of ripe mango and golden peaches with custard. As the wine breaths it becomes a hedonistic melange of stone fruits and citrus carried wonderfully in a musky fragrance with a fresh ginger and laksa leaf spicy uplift and an alluring nettle/herbal complexity with nuances of shiso, lemongrass, tarragon and thyme along with lurking scents of wet chalk/limestone–the sort of wine you find yourself nosing more than drinking–with such captivating aromas.

The palate is equally exciting and full of energy, indeed a torrent of succulent stone fruits and tantalizing tangy citrus yet gorgeously wrapped in a creamy viscous texture; on the one hand or cheek as it were, racy and invigorating and the other slippery, soft and glycerol caressing the long, long…and penetrating farewell with a spiciness and stinging tanginess.

This is a seriously powerful white wine and clearly semillon is an excelsior in the blend; wonderfully decedent and invigorating, drinking well now but you can sense with its unbridled power and cut it will cellar for 10 years or more. Furthermore, it is an absolute bargain and I am going to order 4 cases now, to put down for my 60th birthday!


I am also going to broach another bottle with some Milford Sound crayfish poached in a curry laksa sauce, which I think will work rather well. And you have to watch this video – click here

I might add, we are going through serious quantities of the Pegasus Aria Riesling at the moment, their late harvest offering which we drizzle over (and drink with it) poached winter fruits like pears, apples and rhubarb along with Manuka honey for dessert–separate article coming on this.

Visit the Pegasus Bay website www.pegasusbay.com to purchase direct and for a list of stockist.

The Wandering Palate is a bit of a fan of Pegasus Bay, see links for further reading, and if you happen to be in the region, lunch and luxuriating around the property is a mandatory.

Red Wine of the Lunar Year – Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna 2009 – Waipara Valley, South Island, New Zealand – click here

Wine Feng Shui – Most Auspicious Wine for the Year of the Black Water Dragon 2012 – click here

I can also say that the legendary Wandering Palate Duck Curry work very well with Pegasus Bay Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir, tried and tested at the winery  – click here for recipe

Mount Edward Riesling 2013 – Central Otago, New Zealand

I’m standing in Paul and Ruth Pretty’s kitchen sipping on a glass of Mount Edward Riesling 2013, whilst Ruth is cooking— in case you haven’t heard, Ruth just cooked for William  and Kate on their recent Royal Tour of New Zealand—so we are feeling rightly regal in her presence. Read More >

The Wandering Palate Wine Feng Shui – Most Auspicious Wine for Chinese New Year 2014 – The Year of the Wooden Horse
M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem

M. Chapoutier Domaine de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France Occultum Lapidem 2009 & 2010

What auspicious vinous attributes should we be looking for in the year of The Wooden Horse? Veteran Sommelier and Wine Feng Shui Master, The Wandering Palate, prophesies on the wine that will bring good fortune and enjoyment.    Read More >

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2012 – Canberra, ACT, Australia – Tim Kirk, Gourmet Traveller Wine Winemaker of the Year 2013
"If anyone is thirsty, let them come to Me and drink--Clonakilla Syrah Viognier." www.clonakilla.com.au

A few weeks ago I had lunch at my favourite restaurant in Singapore, Jade Palace Seafood Restaurant with the Reverent Tim Kirk, proprietor and winemaker of Clonakilla vineyard in Canberra, Australia. Read More >

Schubert Block B & Marion’s Pinot Noir 2011 – Martinborough, New Zealand

Having tried the new 2011 pinot noir releases from Schubert at the New Zealand Pinot Noir Celebration back in February, even though only just bottled, one could already sense a brooding concentration in the vintage yet balanced with notably fresh-cool acidities and crunchy fruit. Read More >

New Zealand Red Wine of the Lunar Year (Dragon) & Biodynamic Vigneron of the Lunar Year Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2011, Central Otago, New Zealand

Pinot noir enthusiasts the world over hardly need any convincing that Felton Road make extraordinarily good, arguably great pinot noir, however that does not mean I can’t have my say as well. Read More >

Must-Have Wine – Red Wine of the Lunar Year (Dragon) – Rippon Mature Vines Point Noir 2009 – Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand
The Wandering Palate Must-Have Wines of the Lunar Year - Dragon 2012

The Wandering Palate Must-Have Wines of the Lunar Year - Dragon 2012

Admittedly my predilection for pinot noir is perhaps a prejudice in my choice of ‘Red Wine of the Year’ and this sneak preview of my annual retrospective of wine highlights, the Year of the Dragon – 2012. However, the irrefutable fact is, Rippon Mature Vines Pinot Noir 2009 was the most profoundly complex, texturally sensual and incredibly drinkable wine I encountered all year; a wine of extraordinary charm and approachability even it its youth. And I will go further and declare it is the most impressive current release New World pinot noir I have ever had – period. Read More >

New Zealand White Wine of the Year – Pyramid Valley, Biodynamic Paradigm – 2010 Field of Fire Chardonnay, North Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand
Pyramid Valley Field of Fire Chardonnay

Speaking at a corporate wine evening recently, themed on biodynamic wines and having just delivered a crash course on Wine Feng Shui, it was no surprise that one of the more wine-savvy people in audience asked the predictable question, “Do biodynamic wines taste better?” And in the same breath, “How do I taste the difference between a biodynamic wine and a normal wine?” Read More >