Etna wines are famous and appreciated in Italy and worldwide for their organoleptic characteristics that make them distinct and recognizable from other Sicilian wines. Mount Etna is an active, fearsome volcano on the eastern part of Sicily that has erupted from time to time, sometimes savagely, for thousands of years.
It is the highest active volcano in Europe, 3,330 meters and 187 km in diameter, and it is the guardian of a thousand-year-old viticulture, offering the unique combination of volcanic soils and cool climate at high altitude growing conditions that result in some of the most captivating wines of the Mediterranean.
Let’s discover a wonderful land, an island into the island: a region with unique climatic and environmental characteristics. Let’s discover the wine production of Mount Etna.
Etna wines: the characteristics of this fascinating land
Etna wines are the product of lunar and magnetic landscape, made of volcanic black lands, centuries-old vineyards cultivated with saplings, important temperature ranges and heterogeneous exposures: all factors that give Etna wines unique traits. The volcanic capriciousness of Mount Etna means that its shape, height and geology have shifted multiple times due to countless eruptions in the past millennia.
One result is the consequent richness and diversity of soil types along its slopes. It is here that old sinuous and twisted vines, wooden living sculptures, sink their deep roots between sand and stones, desperate for a precarious survival. The most beautiful vineyards of Etna have the charm of a harmonious disorder, of the spontaneous randomness of nature, which rebellious, wins every attempt of domestication.
Each plant has its own unique and extraordinary shape and history. In a region with a warm Mediterranean climate such as Sicily, Etna stands out for a totally different climate, given of course the altitude factor.
Altitude means greater exposure to the sun to help the maturation of tannins and anthocyanins in Etna Rosso wine and important day/night temperature ranges (up to 25 degrees) to favor the aromatic maturation in Etna Bianco.
The complex geology and profusion of microclimates on the flanks of this peak has attracted winemakers from all over the world. Years of volcanic and seismic activity has created a soil with immense diversity. This diversity set the path for the first Italian wine DOC ever formed: the Etna DOC.
Etna wines: regional variations
Enta wines can count some regional variations. The most prominent region for Etna Rosso wine production is the north where the sun exposure is strong, which would usually be a disadvantage, but the presence of the Nebrodi Mountains and the Alcantara River created a valley with great characteristics for high-quality winegrape production. The border of this northern area is represented by the town of Randazzo to the right bank of the Alcantara River.
Etna Rosso wine comes in a wide variety of styles, and it can be traditional, modern or sometimes unconventional. Known mainly for its role in Etna Rosso DOC wines, Nerello Cappuccio is mainly grown on the steep soils surrounding the Etna Volcano. Nerello Cappuccio’s name derives from the immense cap or canopy of the grapevines. “Cappuccio” meaning cap refers to the unusual hood-like appearance of the vines.
The vines are most often bush-trained; hiding the view of the berries. Although Nerello Cappuccio has always been an important part of Etna’s viticulture, there is little known about this variety. Nerello Cappuccio is much rarer than its soulmate, Nerello Mascalese, with which it is usually blended for Etna Rosso wine.
Instead, the most common area for Etna Bianco wine production is the south-east region. The proximity to the ocean, the altitude and the rainfall allows these vineyards to produce Etna wines with strong Nordic influences. Also, the sun exposure from the south provides grapes with the necessary sun for full development. The Etna bianco is elegant and savory, it offers delicate scents of spring blossom and acacia flowers and it is perfect with fish and fresh fruit as well as soft cheese.
If you are planning a trip to Sicily and you are interested in learning more and especially in tasting the delicious Etna wines, you should not miss one of our Mount Etna tours (available from Messina, Taormina and Catania) to enjoy the nature of Mt. Etna and a pleasant wine-tasting of different Etna Doc wines, accompanied by local traditional food.