What a spectacular view over mount Etna, the crater dominates the sky and the views over the coast. The trip to Etna was very interesting despite the lack of infrastructure there.
The hotels are limited and the vineyards are not obvious. Driving up to Mount Etna is easy, it takes no time to reach the small villages scattered along the road. The only disappointment is the lack of options to enjoy a refined gastronomy.
The soil is black and grainy and has the ability to retain the hot sun’s heat and keep the ground heated throughout the cool nights. Similar to what happens in areas such as Chateau Neuf Du pape the soil in Etna is made up of mostly of volcanic ash. The soils and climate vary widely from sandy and humid in the south, to arid and pumice like in the North.
The rich volcanic soil has a high concentration of sand, a combination that has proved to be highly resistant to the phylloxera root pest that decimated many French and other European vineyards, and some of Mount Etna’s grape vines are well over a century old.
Etna’s primary wine producing zone rises up the slopes of Mount Etna to an elevation of 1,000m and more making it one of the highest commercial vineyards in the world. The winters at these high elevations are harsh and the summers hot and crisp.
By regulation red wines must have a minimum of 80 percent Nerello Mascalese, an indigenous variety that is produced only in the Mount Etna region. Deeply colored, the grape is thick-skinned and contributes to firm tannins and a healthy acidity.
In the blend is another indigenous red variety, Nerello Cappuccio, which must comprise at least 10 but not more than 20 percent of the total. The Nerello Cappuccio contributes to spicy aromas, and red berry flavors and is used to balance the reds.
The Etna Bianco 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.
There is no doubt that the wines of Etna are unique and deserve the special attention they receive throughout the world. Perhaps they will never get the popularity of other well known wine regions and life under the nose of a volcano continues with the utmost respect for nature. Sicily is certainly a unique place, the people, their history and tradition prevails.