🍷 I’m so pleased to introduce you to Simona who I met during my travels in Sicily last October (2016). Her passion and love for her home is contagious and inspiring and I’m thrilled to have her share about the wines of Mt. Etna…
Wine Tasting at the Foot of Mt. Etna
🍷My personal experience with Etna territory and wines has always been very particular and exciting.
I used to live at the feet of this huge active Volcano, from the continuous smoking signs to tremors and explosions lights, the first look at morning is always through the mountain direction just to signify “Good morning lady. How are you?”. This is the feeling of each person living around the area of the volcano.
When you start climbing on the slopes of Etna from Giarre to Linguaglossa, you’re always surrounded by this gorgeous green and colored landscape where vines are all around and it changes the scenery through the seasons from the harvest period of September till the springtime blooming, when producers try to figure out what kind of wine will deserve the next harvesting…
I always say that wine is a philosophy more than a business, tasting is personal to those that love to stop for a while looking at the color first, when the nectar come to the glass, then in the mouth, closing the eyes to feel all sensory emotions a glass of wine can bring in your mouth…
There are more than 75 producers of ETNA wine spread from south to north slopes which makes the production and taste of wines different in nuances and roundness and all peculiarities that make a good wine. But first we have to introduce you to this magic territory.
🍷ETNA DOC Territory:
The Mount Etna region in northeastern Sicily seems an unlikely site for producing any wines. Mount Etna received DOC status in 1968.
The soil is rich in texture (range of particle sizes larger than 2 mm), therefore very permeable and rich in potassium and moderately low in nitrogen and phosphorus. The screws are located at a height ranging from 300 to 900 meters, with peaks of 1100, 1200 meters depending on slope and their microclimates. Despite the climate of these territories can be defined temperate Mediterranean, it varies depending on the slope and then exposure: in South West extends the less rainy area, (600ml) and then with lower relative humidity, which permits the vines of Nerello mascalese to climb up to 1100 meters, Carricante even reaches 1200 meters.
To the east instead, because of the exposure and the influence of sea breezes, there is the earlier of maturity zone, with good daily temperature ranges and maximum temperatures never too high, as in the territories of Giarre, S. Venerina and Mascali.
To the south, in the territories S.M. Licodia, Biancavilla, Paternò and Belpasso, the temperature ranges attain the highest quotes, and this results in a late-ripening environment.
The northern side is the wettest, and even here the temperature ranges are very high, Randazzo, Castiglione di Sicilia and Linguaglossa are located here. The wines can only be “minerals”, tasty, of high acidity and a great personality, unique in the national wine production landscape.
Another attractive feature of the Etna region is that some of the vines in Mount Etna’s vineyards are extremely old. Etna’s rich volcanic soil also contains a high concentration of ash, a combination that has proved to be highly resistant to the phylloxera root pest that decimated other European vineyards in the late 1800’s. Vineyards throughout Europe were wiped out for an extended period by the phylloxera root louse but Etna’s vineyards with their volcanic, sandy soil were spared. The result is that some of Mount Etna’s grape vines are well over a century old with some reaching the two century mark. While these ancient vines may be gnarly and fragile, they produce some amazing wine grapes.
🍷Mount Etna’s Grape Varieties and Wines:
The wines of Etna’s region are primarily dry red and white but also include a few rosato (rosè) wines.
The Etna Rosso (Etna red) wines are blended wines. By regulation they must have a minimum of 80 percent Nerello Mascalese, an indigenous variety produced only in Mount Etna region. It is a deeply colored, thick-skinned variety that contributes gritty tannins and vibrant acidity to the Etna Rosso blend. The blend is completed with another indigenous red variety, Nerello Cappuccio which must comprise at least 10 but no more than 20 percent of the total this grape contributes spicy aromas, red berry flavors and perhaps a touch of elegance to the Etna Rosso blend.
The Etna Bianco (Etna white) wines must have a minimum of 60 percent Carricante, an indigenous white variety that is grown exclusively in the Etna region. While 40 percent of the blend can consist of other authorized local white varieties, some of the best Etna Bianco wines are made entirely of Carricante. Oftentimes produced from grapes grown at the very highest reaches of the Etna DOC zone, Carricante-based wines can be lean, crisp and acidic. Other Carricante wines can be more full-bodied with a creamier texture and the wine’s trademark acidity balanced with generous fruit flavors.
But the scene of wine production is quickly moving into a recognition of ETNA DOC as one of the wine excellence worldwide, which turned most of the pioneers of the mountain to produce more with 90%-95% of one pure variety among red and white indigenous grapes.
I can say that I know only the 50% of wine production of ETNA but I have my beloved bottles which relates to the strong relationship I could enjoy with some of the producers I’ve discovered on my way to Etna territory.
🍷First on my list is the family Cambria owner of Cottanera located on the northern slopes of Mount Etna in the territory of Castiglione di Sicilia. The vineyards grow over lava stone, 700m above sea level. This incredible terroir was first discovered by Guglielmo Cambria in the early 1990s with the assistance of his brother Enzo. The brothers started with international grapes, then began planting the traditional grapes grown on Etna: Nerello mascalese, Nerello cappuccio and Carricante.
Today, after the death of Guglielmo, Cottanera is led by his brother Enzo, and the children of the co-founder: Mariangela, Francesco and Emanuele. The vineyard holdings of Cottanera, today, encompass 65 hectares around the town of Castiglione di Sicilia.
🍷Fischetti is located on the edge of Castiglione di Sicilia on the north side of Mount Etna, a new winery project. In 2007 the Fischetti family purchased the property from an ageing grower who had historically sold his fruit to other winemakers outside of the region and had no children interested in carrying his work on.
Little has changed in the vineyards since 2007 although only three hectares, the parcel is planted with a mix of local varieties, from Etna’s famous red grapes Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio to whites such as Carricante, Catarratto and even small amounts of the very rare Minella. The vineyard’s charm, also referred to as Muscamento on Etna’s historical charter of cru vineyard sites, is that the old bush vines, some of which are almost a century old, are all mixed together.
🍷Terrazze dell’Etna stretches from 650 to 950 meters above sea level and brushes up against the natural Etna Park: it was acquired and framed in 2008 by Nino Bevilacqua, a Palermitan engineer deeply in love with his homeland. His passion for Sicily has induced him to rediscover and restore an ancient and characteristic agricultural estate, purchasing numerous small plots of land which shape an amphitheater of terraces where vineyards are cultivated.
Today the property is made up of terraced land and small stonewalls running along the vineyards and woods of oak and chestnut trees. The small stonewalls mark off the territory where the Nerello Mascalese, a historical local vineyard cultivation, the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir are being grown taking nourishment from the fertile land of the Etna, the very symbol of Sicily throughout the world.
🍷The history of the Barone di Villagrande Estate is indissolubly tied to the Nicolosi family who can be traced back to the 18th century. It was June 29, 1726 when Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI (King of Naples from 1714-1740) with a decree considered inspired, according to the ancient scholars, from that eternal and inescapable law which regulated and dominated without contrast the life of the universe gave Don Carmelo Nicolosi, the oldest son of Don Pietro, who carefully – with love and dedication – restored the vineyards and production of a prestigious wine, the title Barone di Villagrande and a series of related privileges.
Paolo Nicolosi, in 1869, completed the new wine making and maturation cellar. This new structure was realized with cutting-edge materials and techniques. But the real news was the double wine-making line, which allowed the separation of white grapes from the red grapes. Before that time, on Etna, and in the major part of Italy, white and red grapes were together made into one wine. We can irrefutably prove that Etna Bianco Superiore was born here. In 1948 Carmelo Nicolosi Asmundo, certainly among the first in Sicily and in Italy, bottled the first reserves of Etna Rosso into 0.75 litre wine bottles to be placed on the market.
In all these years, and with more than 10 generations, the Nicolosi Asmundo family continues working yet today with passion and enthusiasm.
“I’m an explosive Sicilian woman. Passionate about wine and history, I’ve been living between France and Sicily, right at the feet of the most active Volcano of Europe, Mount Etna. In 2011 I’ve founded Tripping Sicily, a leading Luxury Concierge company focused on Private Yacht rental, wine tours and incentive travel.”
Connect with Simona at www.trippingsicily.com