Italian food belongs with Italian wine, but be careful with the grape you choose. I generally order a Sangiovese wine with any Italian dish, whether tomato or meat-based. However, I discovered another grape the other day that simply didn't hit it off with spaghetti, but paired nicely with eggplant.
The Benanti Etna Rosso is made with two grapes named Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, 85% the former and 15% the latter. They are both believed to be related to Sangiovese. Eighty-percent of the wine was aged in steel tanks, the rest in French oak barriques for ten months. Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and retail looks to be around $20.
James Lawrence writes that the property has been in Giuseppe Benanti's family for centuries. He revitalized it in the 1980s and handed it down to his sons, Antonio and Salvino. The vines grow in Viagrande, Sicily - on the slopes of Mt. Etna - an active volcano that has wiped out the towns below it seven times already. Giuseppe shrugs off the threat and says there's no point in worrying about it.
This wine smells and tastes like Burgundy with a volcano in it. The nose carries earthy-yet-floral notes on a mineral base. The palate is not exactly like Pinot Noir, but not exactly like Sangiovese, either. It paired much better with the involtini than it did with the tomato sauce spaghetti. I guess those Sicilian grapes like eggplant better. It showed a bit of brown around the edge, not something you see often in a young wine.
Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter