Terrazze dell'Etna Ciuri and Waxahatchee's Out in the Storm
Sometimes understated and subtle is the vibe, especially if I’ve only had one cup of coffee, or heaven forbid none at all. But not once my blood’s pumping, I’m off the clock and it’s time to let loose. That’s the time for shit to pop off - explode even. When it comes to wine and music, that can mean a lot of different options - but the order of the day is Waxahatchee’s outspoken, forthright “Out in the Storm” and Terrazze dell'Etna Ciuri that comes from a region with a damn volcano that could erupt at any time.
Real talk - “Out in the Storm” is my favorite album from last year. Waxahatchee founder, songwriter and frontwoman Katie Crutchfield is raw, honest, assertive and makes some damn fine music. I’ve immensely enjoyed all her albums, but this one feels the most confident and polished by far. It shows a lot of growth, not only with her sound but with her personally as it plays out in the lyrics of the record. It’s predominantly directed towards an ex who made her feel inferior, but she’s able to own her faults, call out her self-righteous ex and move forward.
Terrazze dell’Etna makes some pretty bold choices too, starting with the fact that their winery is located on Mt. Etna which is an active volcano. This is also what makes all the wines produced in this Sicilian region so badass and unique. There is an inherent risk associated with planting vineyards here, but it’s also the highest elevation wine region in the world and rich with volcanic soil, qualities that give its wines seering acidity and a distinct earthy character.
The Ciuri in particular is a recalcitrant little wine. As with many Italian wine regions, there are regulations on where wine is made, how wine is made and classifying wine. Terrazze dell’Etna throws out the rulebook when it comes to experimentation. The Ciuri is made of 100% Nerello Mascalese, the indigenous grape of Mt. Etna. Furthermore, Nerello Mascalese is a red grape they fermented without the skins to make this white wine, AKA a Blanc de Noir. Regional regulations require Etna Bianco to be comprised of a minimum of certain white Italian varietals which Terrazze dell’Etna did not adhere to, so they call this rebellious release a Vino Bianco.
“Never Been Wrong” is the powerhouse opener on “Out in the Storm” with driving electric guitar and blaring percussion that expresses Katie’s frustrations with her relationship and how she behaves in it, and sarcastically proclaims her partner has “never been wrong”. Her voice and lyrics on the next track, “8 Ball” are intoxicating. She’s very much aware of her relationship’s decline and her ex placing the blame on her, a truth that gives her a kind of freedom and fuck-it attitude, not unlike the Ciuri which operates out of bounds.
The Ciuri has a pronounced bouquet of white peach, orange pith, some smokey and savory notes and hints of funky mushroom and petrol. On the palate, it’s medium bodied with lively acidity, citrus and a slightly herbal quality, some salinity and a long, mineral-laced finish. It’s evocative of the terroir and the creative vinification of winemaker Ricardo Coterella. It’s self-assured like with “Out in the Storm” which reaches a turning point on “Silver” - a song that rocks hard and is meant to be played loud. Here, Katie decides “I went out in the storm/And I’m never returning”. I imagine the storm is the unknown without her ex, for better or worse.
I feel like she’s on the other side of this too-cool person in her life on “Brass Beam” - one of my favorite songs on the record. It’s got such great movement and layers musically, and lyrically she’s flipped the narrative of criticism and judgment on her to illuminating the burden and hypocrisy of her ex with lines like “I took a pill, I went to sleep for the first time in weeks/You kept me up with all your manic energy” and the brilliant “Narcissistic injury disguised as masterpiece”. File this one under awesome break-up song.
The Ciuri embodies that contrast of brightness and grit in Waxahatchee’s range of emotions, inflections and musical sound - especially on the last few songs of the record that go from soft to hard to soft again. The wine has pleasant fruit and acid but with that earthy, minerally, gassy weirdness.
“No Question” comes barreling through on the second to last track on “Out in the Storm”. It’s loud with fuzzy guitars and takes an offensive stance. Katie’s lyrics are bold, brave and vulnerable, sounding like she took them right out of a page in her diary:
When I'm seeing red I'm embarrassed
I hoped howling out all this truth
Would be liberating
But all the pity spills from the seams
And everyone questions the unseen
The final track, “Fade” switches tones again, like the wine that reveals pineapple and floral notes as it goes on, evolving and changing with the album. “Fade” is a gentle, complacent song. Katie reflects on the wasted time she spent on her unhealthy relationship while dreaming about a better future for herself. With this closing song, she’s moving on so she can find it.
“Out in the Storm” is a record that takes risks - like Katie Crutchfield bearing her messy truth, putting it all out there and making the difficult decision to leave her past behind for an uncertain future. Similarly, the Terrazze dell’Etna Ciuri is the product of a volatile wine region and subversive wine-making methods. Together, their bold moves erupt in maximum enjoyment.