The local drinking scene has caught on the volcanic bug for some time. Wines raised from volcanic soil are remarked for their concentration, earthiness and well-articulated structure — be those wines hailed from Sicily’s Mount Etna; France’s Alsace; Germany’s Pfalz or Oregon’s Dundee Hills. This is far from being an exhaustive list – though we’d venture to say that these are probably the most discussed wines from volcanic origin.

The cru of Guardiola on the north slope of Europe’s largest living volcano Mount Etna
(Photo Credit: Tenuta delle Terre Nere)

Today we look at what distinguishes Etna Rosso from the rest of volcanic origins. Mount Etna earned its DOC status back in 1968, right around the same period when Chianti (1967) and Barolo (1966), among all others, were first recognized as DOC. Past 20 years saw Etna rising from a locally celebrated wine to an international connoisseur darling.
A handful key factors shape the unique terroir expression of wines of Etna:

  • Highly versatile local varieties (Red: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Capuccio; White: Carricante, Catarratto)
  • Leading producers’ focus on single vineyard expression showcases the region’s true potential
  • Preservation of a wealth of ancient, often times pre-phylloxera vines
  • Etna’s own “alberello” (very high density bush vine system) training serves its vines well
  • High altitude plantings, often at 800 to 1500m above sea level,

​A combination of the above construct a solid formula to producing wines of high quality, good concentration and structure. Together with a growing group of serious producers (among all our favourites being Terre Nere, Benanti, Passopisciaro, Frank Cornielissen, Girolamo Russo…), we are certain that this particular volcanic turf will continue to convert more drinkers to wines from this “island within an island”. We certainly do hope our above introduction entices you to try wines of Etna Rosso – if you haven’t yet. Whether you have or have not, a taste of back vintage Etna Rosso has always proven to be a delightful experience. 

Tenuta delle Tere Nerre Etna Rosso Guardiola

Today’s highlight is on this single vineyard offering from Tenuta delle Terre Nere. Cru Guardiola locates at 800 to 1000m on the north side of Mount Etna, where most of the highest quality vineyards situate. This cru requires more time than others to open up. These below from vintages 2004 to 2006 are now ready to be enjoyed. We also suggest putting Terre Nere’s Prephylloxera Don Peppino and Calderara Sottana on your collecting radar. For daily drinking, Santo Spirito would fit the bill perfectly.

Cover Photo Credit: Tenzing Wine & Spirits