When it comes to planting vines one of the last places you may want to consider is planting them on the slopes of an active volcano. Recent outbursts of Sicily’s Mount Etna provide sound arguments for this with lava flows wiping out precious vines within minutes. So why do it?
Perhaps wine makers are motivated by the fact that volcanic wines are highly terroir- orientated as bedrock, soils, drainage and microclimates are highly diverse which in turn would make it impossible to make stylistic generalizations about wines grown on the flanks of an active volcano.
Such is the case of the wines produced on the slopes of UNESCO site Mount Etna. Talking with DOC Etna wine makers on a recent visit to Etna, Volcanic wines seems to be synonymous with individual wines. The Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini Etna D.O.C kindly convened several producers together at the Consorzio’s President winery, Tenute Mannino di Plachi and we were invited to have this demonstrated in a tasting of wines made from indigenous grape varieties namely Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante and Catarate
The wines tasted were as follows:
Tenute Nicosia – Etna Bianco 2011 – 80% Carricante & 20% Catarratto 12 months French Oak
Eucalyptus, lemon grass and fennel on the nose. Fresh entrance. Creamy texture, citrus palate, and a firm mineral edge on the palate, which has balanced acidity and a lingering finish.
Benanti Winery Etna Bianco 2014 100% Carricante
Intense, fruity and citrus like aromas. Palate is fresh with just enough acidity to balance the creamy texture. Medium finish.
Benanti Winery Pietra Marina 2012 100% Carricante
Crisp and positive with lemon zest and a hint of anise and almond. Wiffs of sulphur on the nose. Long mineral edge to the finish.
Tenute Mannino di Plachi Etna Bianco 2013 95% Carricante & 5% Catarratto
Lemon grass on the nose. Concentrated, weighty but vibrantly fresh on the palate. Pleasant lingering finish.
Tenuta di Fessina Puddara 100% Carricante 9 months in Chestnut barrels
Fragrant baked apples with underlying anise and citrus notes. Sensation of honey on the creamy palate Crisp mouth-watering finish.
Terrazze Dell’Etna Ciuri – Blanc de Noir Nerello Mascalese & Carricante
Tropical fruits, barbecued bananas and a hint of wild herb on the nose. Vibrate spicy palate. Pleasant fresh finish which lingers for some time.
Al-Cantàra – Luci Luci 2014 100% Carricante
Honeyed buttery nose with citrus notes. Round palate with citrus deliciousness. Nice texture with a grippy lingering finish.
Romeo del Castello – Vigo 2013 Nerello Mascalese (old vines 70 – 100 years) with a dash of Nerello Cappuccio
Smoky, rich, red fruits of the forest nose followed by a darked fruited palate. Firm dry tannins through a creamy texture. A powerful red calling for red meat!
Tenuta Scilio di Valle Galfina – Valle Galfina 2015 100% Carricante
Intense citrus nose with spice and grass tones with a palate that opens with an explosion of fruit and crisp driving acidity. A bitter almond finish with a subtle hint of liquorice.
From this tasting alone it quickly became apparent that each sub – region of Etna or even a specific vineyard has a distinctive stylistic fingerprint.
The tasting concluded with a light lunch of local culinary delights which provided the opportunity to do some wine and food matching.
The 300 or so conference delegates travelling to attend the 9th Annual International Wine Tourism Conference, Exhibition & Workshop to be held in Sicily, Italy the 28th & 29th of March 2017 will be able to discover why Etna wines are Italy’s hottest wines right now through tastings at the IWINETC exhibition and at Grand Tasting of Wines of Sicily led by a Master of Wine and through the pre and post conference tours to some of Etna’s diverse vineyards and wineries.
In no particular order, pictures of some of the wines included in the tasting: