Etna wine – Part 2
Of forty varieties of grapes present on Etna in nineteenth century the most widespread nowadays are Nerello Mascalese, Carricante, Nerello Cappuccio, Grecanico, Calabrese ( Nero D’Avola). Etna DOC ( Denominazione di Origine Controllata– Controlled Origin Denomination) was Sicily’s first wine appellation – the regulations regarding Etna DOC Rosso (Nerello Mascalese ( at least 80 per cent ) with Nerello Cappuccio) and Etna DOC Bianco (Carricante and Cataratto) have been approved in 1968.
The proof of the popularity of the wines from Etna may be given by the presence of foreigners who driven by Etna’s magnetic force have decided to settle on it’s slopes starting their own wine production. Etna is full of ‘crazy’ winemakers with real vocation especially on its north-eastern side. Probably the most famous producer ( to British readers) is Mick Hucknell from ‘Simply Red‘ making ‘Il Cantante’ wine near Milo in a very traditionally Sicilian way by cultivating the vine ad alberello with a plant being supported by stakes made from local chestnut wood. This kind of cultivation requires manual harvest and is thus abandoned by many while it is definitely the best way for the vine to grow, permitting three-dimensional rather than bi-dimensional ventilation of the plant.( I acquired this knowledge from the enologist of ‘Il Cantante’ Salvo Foti as he was walking me around Hucknell’s vineyard). Following Hucknell by fame ( if not exceeding it) is Frank Cornelissen with his ‘Magma’ wines,belgian ex mountain climber who from 12 hectares of vineyard planted strictly ad alberello in Solicchiata produces a small quantity of highly priced ‘cosmic’ wines. Marc de Grazia ( locally known as Marco de Grazia) is his american neighbor, the owner of ‘Terre Nere‘ . Among his vineyards on the northern slopes of Etna is the famous Gaurdiola- the highest-altitude pre-phylloxera red-grape vineyard in Europe ( of which he owns 2.1 hectares) that is a real oasis in the middle of volcanic desert, surrounded by different antique and fresh lava flows.
The most significant wine production is definitely by locals…