A few weeks ago, I was “encouraged” to have a wine tasting by my good friend Kurt. He was holding a very “unusual wine” for us to try and wanted an opportunity to share it.
We gathered some friends at my place and, along with all the bottles our friends brought and my wife’s fantastic work in the kitchen, we set out to drink some wine! We had some Champagne to start, a wonderful Cab, a great Cab Franc from California and then Kurt broke out his pride and joy. . . the 2008 Susucaru 2 Vino da Tavola Rosato!
The Susucaru 2 is the creation of “non-interventionalist” winemaker Frank Cornelissen and comes from the Etna DOC in Sicily. The wine, according to its bottle, “has not been modified, neither chemically nor mechanically and does not contain preservatives or stabilizers. It will develop natural sedimentation as our wines are not filtered or altered.”
The Mt. Etna region. . .
The Etna DOC was established in 1968 and is the oldest DOC in Sicily. The DOC is made up of the eastern, northern and southern faces of Mt. Etna, a famous volcano in the region. Wines produced in Etna include roses, dry whites and dry reds. The white wines are made from a minimum of 60% Caricante, a maximum of 40% Catarratto, with up to 15% Trebbiano, Minella or other authorized white grapes. The red wines have a minimum of 80% of Nerello Mascalese. The remaining 20% can be made from Nerello Cappuccio or a blend of at least 10% Nerello Cappuccio and up to 10% other red or even, somewhat surprisingly, white grapes.
As described by Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste Wines, the importer of this bottle: “From a blend of Malvasia, Black Muscat and Nerello Mascalese (Frank’s signature varietal, this portion is pre-phyloxera planted in 1871, 138 years of age) the “Susucaru” is his most limited wine (even more limited than the Magma R) – it is not exported and not sold to the US. To be blunt, this wine is indescribable and it cannot be compared to any other wine in my experience (nor in Frank’s). It is technically a rose’, produced from free-run juice and no actual pressings of solid matter/seeds/skins. Whole clusters are allowed to gently leak their juice and the most pristine, unfiltered liquid is used for this wine. Nothing is added, nothing is taken away and no chemical treatments are used in the vineyard or in the wine (no sulfur, stabilizers, enzymes or yeast) – this is pure grape extract in its most primal, volcanic form.
The Susucaru is a wine geek’s fantasy beverage full of intrigue at every turn – it is not trying to be hip or cool but it is held in the “coolest” of circles for the very reason that is is trying to be nothing – it just is. Due to its free run nature, the Susucaru requires 3-4 times the grapes than Cornelissen’s other wines thus it is very costly to produce. While I cannot describe this wine in proper words, it contains whiffs and flavors of Aramis cologne, Trinidad bitters, orange rind, cinnamon (no oak is used – it’s from the grapes), fresh tobacco, nutmeg, wild fennel and a host of other tantalizing aromas and tastes that slather the palate with a luxurious texture and divine length. Full-flavored and unctuous with terrific acidity, this wine is one of a kind – it’s that simple. In its fresh state, the color is orange with pink tinges from vinification in completely neutral “vessels” (all of the Cornelissen wines are raised in a trade secret mix of “vessels” that cannot be revealed but I suspect they are various sizes of clay pots). In the end, the Susucaru is not technically what I would refer to as “wine” – it is more a mix of ideology, philosophy and grapes that were grown and vinified with the freest of spirit leading the way.
As mentioned above, this wine is not exported for retail and it is not available in the US (besides this small parcel) – the entire Italian retail allocation is less than 50 bottles and they are very expensive. In total, only 43 cases were produced (as opposed to the little wonder beverage, the Contadino, of which there are nearly 500 cases). Most of the production of Susucaru is reserved for the top restaurants in Italy (Cornelissen’s wines are now on the list at half of the Tre Forchetti restaurants in Italy and all of them have come to him to purchase wine directly – he has no distributor in Italy).
Please note: Those looking for the typical wine experience of red, white or rose’ need to recalibrate their thinking – this is about an open mind and palate and the Susucaru fits no description of red, white or rose’ – it defies all of our perceptions about wine and it is happy to redefine the term “wine” for all of us.” www.cellartracker.com/wine.asp?iWine=686173
For our group, Susucaru 2 is salmon in color. It has the most diverse nose I have ever smelled. . . full of ever changing scents of orange peel, watermelon, apples, big doses of rusty nail, nail polish, grapefruit, varnish, lemons, strawberry and cinnamon. Every time I went back just to smell this one, it changed. . . sometimes for the good, and sometimes, not so good. On the palate, the expansive list of scents followed through to my taste buds, including, nail polish, oranges, lemons, tangerine, apples, strawberries, watermelon, herbal tea, and on and on. The more I tasted, the more flavors I tasted!
The reaction at the table of friends ranged from “this is awful”, to this “gets better with time”, to “this isn’t good enough to cook with” to “this is indescribable”. . . and it almost was. This wine “is what it is” and does not apologize for its unique flavor profile.
Why do I taste wines as “unique” as this? Because I like to try new and “out of the box” wine— and you should try them too! It is worth the effort to try new varietals and new regions. You will not like them all, but at least you will have the experience to say so AND, you may just find one you truly enjoy more than the usual Cab, Zin or Chard. . .
As for the Susucaru 2 . . . it is not an everyday wine for me, nor even a once a month wine, BUT, I can say, it is a very intriguing and unique wine that I am thankful for having had the opportunity to try.