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WWS: Taste of Sicilian Etna Mountain in the Bottle

Posted: Wednesday, 23 November 2011 12:07

WWS: Taste of Sicilian Etna Mountain in the Bottle

Nov 23 : Sicily has different terroir with the active volcano Mount Etna giving unique properties and local grapes that make interesting and age-worthy wines, according to Giuseppe Benanti one of Etna’s top producers who claimed at the recently concluded World Wine Symposium in Italy that it has the potential to become the Burgundy of Italy. Subhash Arora who tasted several wines from the region and will conduct a Sicily Master Class in January 2012 in conjunction with IRVV writes.

Click For Large ViewEtna is an island within the island of Sicily which is known for its different soils, terroir and interesting wines due to grapes that are special to a region. Etna Bianco is made from a blend of Carricante (min 60 %) Catarratto (max 40 %) and makes delicious and complex age-worthy white wine. Carricante is a grape varietal unique to this region-in the shape of a reverse ‘C’ north of Catania. The red wine Etna Rosso doc is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, the two grapes found in this region only. 

Grapes were found in this region in 1860, says Benanti.  Although the region was the first to receive a DOC status in Sicily in 1968 but it had been practically neglected, says Giuseppe Benanti whose grandfather Giuseppe Benanti (Italian family names are confusing to ne end) had started grape growing in the 1800s at his farm but his father devoted time in the pharmaceutical industry (times were not great for grape farming then) and in 1988 the grandson and the current owner Giuseppe Benanti decided to revive the farm and thus may be considered  an early pioneer in the rejuvenation of Etna wines, who inspired the other Etnean wine producers.

Expression of the territory

Wine is the expression of the particular territory, says Benanti. Etna region is unique with a very particular microclimate. Ashes have more mineral or more iron. In Etna you have to taste according to the specific terroir within the region too. Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio an Carricante can fully express their best only in the soil of Etna.

Rain is missing during summertime but could be very high in the autumn-winter period. The soil is formed by the disintegration. High altitudes play a positive role in the vineyards which are often terraced due to high slope. Growers are still traditionalists Grapes are handpicked, there is no irrigation, growers respect old methods of growing though research is improving the quality.

Harvest in Etna is at least one month later than the rest of Italy- by September end, depending on the slopes.

Wines from Benanti and some of the other newer Estates were poured. Cantine Edomé was founded in 2005 by Gianclaudio Tribulato and Nini Cianci. Alice Bonaccorsi started a winery in 2003 of the same name. Tenuta Fessina came up in 2007 with the Tuscan wine producer Silvia Maestrelli collaborating with the Piemontese ex-Gaja winemaker Federico Curtaz. Alberto Aiello Graci is the owner of Graci since 2004. Azienda Girolamo Russo is one of the older wineries; it was founded in 1960 and Giuseppe Russo is the current owner.

Pietramarina 2001 from Benanti was a 100% Carricante, made from  80-100 years old vineyards (pre-Phylloxera). This dark golden coloured Etna Bianco Superiore has only 12.5% alcohol and had flavours of apples and flint-very mineral in personality so typical of this region. A very interesting and complex wine with unique character that would be very attractive for a wine connoisseur. Noir Valcerrata was a similar wine from Alice. Quota 600 Etna doc 2009 Graci  indicated that the vineyard is at a height of 600 m. Grapes are the typical of Etna Red doc wine- 80% Nerello Mascalese/20% Nerello Cappuccio. Wine with citrus aromas and flavour of red cherries was very elegant wine that would go well with Indian food-even for vegetarians as the tannins are not too strong and dominating.

I was quite impressed with a Spumante made from 100% Carricante grapes with Charmat method- Prosecco style wine with more body and complexity in the flavours.

Subhash Arora

Taste of Etna and other Sicilian wines in India- Indian Wine Academy plans to organise a Master Class on Sicily- its soil, terroir and wines in conjunction with the Istituto Regionale della Vite e del Vino (IRVV) from January 9-14, 2012 in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune for a select group of wine professional. Etna and the other regions of Sicily will be showcased, accompanied by wines from these regions. For further information and registration in  these cities, you may contact –editor

Tags: Etna, Benanti, WWS, Villa d’Este, IRVV, Nerello Mascalese, Cappuccio, Sicily,


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