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Celebrating a Volcanic Eruption with Etna Rosso

Today's tasty pairing brings the flavors of Sicily to wherever you choose to enjoy them

Caponata with Tornatore Etna Rosso 2017

One of my favorite travel memories is witnessing the golden lava spewing against the night sky during an eruption of Sicily's Mt. Etna from our hotel balcony in Taormina. Etna has become active lately, renewing my interest in the diverse wines now available from Sicily. Equally spectacular of late has been the ever-improving quality of the Etna DOC wines, albeit often at a steeper price than before. With a little thoughtful 'digging,' there are still some amazing bargains from Etna, including the Tornatore Etna Rosso 2017.

From a Sicilian family heritage that traces back to the 17th century, the Tornatore’s Mount Etna wine ventures began in 1865 and continue today under Giuseppe Tornatore. Made from 95% Nerello Mascalese, Tornatore Etna Rosso 2017 is ruby red wine with faint purple color, a typical trait of the this variety. Hints of macerated Alpine strawberries and raspberries, morello cherries and black plum blend with subtle aromas of herbs and earth. This is a fully structured wine with fine tannins and bright acidity. The rich complexity paired with a persistent finish makes it a tasty match for the easily prepared Caponata. Find it for under $20 online at B-21 wines.

93 pts. Wine Enthusiast

“Aromas of red berry, rose, thyme and a whiff of camphor shape the fragrant nose. Sleek and graceful, the lithe, savory palate delivers juicy strawberry, crushed raspberry, Mediterranean herbs and white pepper framed in glossy tannins and fresh acidity. A mineral note evoking smoky flint lingers on the finish.”

92 pts. James Suckling

Lots of red plums here with glazed cherries and lemons. Medium body, fine and silky tannins and a refined finish. Drink now.

91 pts. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

Opening to a mild garnet color and pretty ruby transparency, the Tornatore 2017 Etna Rosso has a bouquet that is tight and streamlined, with wild rose and forest fruit followed by crushed stone and tangy mountain herb. The blend is 95% Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio, and this 2017 vintage shows more grit and volume compared to past editions. That extra level of textural fiber would pair with porchetta or roast lamb. There's a salty note on the close.

Now for the food! The question of what to pair got me thinking of something I hadn't made in years, Caponata, the tasty Sicilian melange of eggplant, tomato, garlic and onions, along with the traditional addition of golden raisins and pine nuts. It's perfect for making a day ahead to allow for the blending and melding that renders all the ingredients a singular expression of taste - albeit with many layers of flavor and complexity. Much like a good wine.


Makes about 2 cups

You can also roast the eggplant first if you happen to have the oven on, but it’s easy enough to prepare completely on the stovetop in about 30 minutes. Take the time to caramelize the tomato paste as indicated as it elevates the overall flavor to sublime. Crostini make the perfect delivery system - or if you're like me, enjoy one delicious spoonful at a time - with a sip of this gorgeous Etna Rosso.

1 large eggplant (about 1 ¼ lbs .), skin on, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 ½ cups)

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

1 cup coarsely chopped celery

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. tomato paste

3 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

3 tbsp. dry white wine

2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed

¼ cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. golden raisins and 2 tbsp. toasted pinenuts (optional)

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or cast iron pan. Add the eggplant cubes and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened and lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the pan and return pan to heat. Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Lower heat and add the onion and celery. Cook on low heat until softened about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute longer. Stir in the red wine vinegar. When liquid is almost evaporated, stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes to caramelize the tomato paste. Stir in the tomatoes and reserved eggplant. Stir in the white wine. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 minutes, until eggplant is very soft. Stir in the olives, capers and pepper flakes. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until any excess liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, stir in the raisins and pine nuts if using and season with salt and freshly ground. pepper. Allow to cool, then stir in remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil, parsley and mint. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours. Serve at room temperature.

Copyright 2021 Donna Leahy


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