Inside Stories

Grapefully Yours: “Saxangria Spumante Brut”

I tried a new drink over the holidays and it was absolutely fantastic.

Destro “Saxanigra” Spumante Millemisato Brut (SRP: $25) from the Mt. Etna region in Sicily.

Saxanigra Spumante Brut, Etna DOC, is made from Nerello Mascalese grapes. The SUD Wine Competition is held annually to recognize the best wines in Southern Italy (Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Sardinia and Sicily)

This Italian sparkling wine, from the 2017 vintage, is made from 100 percent red Nerello Mascalese grapes and puts to rest any notion that bubbly wines are less than perfect unless they come from Champagne in France.

In fact, the Destro Pastizzaro family produces Saxanigra in the same classic Champenoise method (metodo classico) that is used to make French Champagne.

It undergoes two fermentations – one in barrel or tanks and another in bottle. (This differs from the Charmat method in which both fermentations take place in steel tanks.) The result is richer flavors, creamier mousse, and more bursting bubbles.

Two things that stood out in tasting Saxanigra were its soft, silky texture and brilliance in the glass (millions of tiny bubbles!). According to the winemaker’s tasting notes, the wine ages in bottle “sur lie” (dead yeast cells) for 36 months before disgorgement. The wine then sits in bottle for another 24 months prior to release.

The deliberative process aids in the creamy smoothness of the final sparkling wine. Also, it enhances the spumante’s citrusy aromatics, flavors, and color (pale gold).

In Italy, spumante can be made from any grape varietal throughout Italy’s 20 provinces.

What makes Saxanigra attractive – or at least more interesting – is the terroir from which it originates.

Nerello Mascalese is considered one of Sicily’s noble red grapes. The dark-skinned varietal grows almost exclusively on Mt. Etna’s slopes of volcanic soils where vines reach deep into ash debris and rocks for nutrients. Take a sip of Saxanigra and there’s a distinctive mineral note of wet stone, earth and saltiness. When integrated with Saxanigra’s concentrated fruit and almond flavors, the result is a complex and savory beverage.

Saxanigra Brut finishes crisp, dry and refreshing.

I served this unique spumante at a small gathering of friends over the New Year’s weekend and it was so well received, every drop of it was gone before all the scallop and shrimp appetizers were served!

The best way to acquire a bottle is to look online or inquire at Italian fine wine outlets.

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