Etna: wines from the volcano

by Simon Woolf
As far as wine regions go, Mount Etna could be described as a wine geek’s wet dream. Volcanic soil, obscure indigenous grape varieties, high altitudes and pre-phylloxera vineyards are just...

2008 Benanti Pietramarina Etna Bianco Superiore, Etna, Sicily

( €16.50 Ex-cellar, 13%, Les Caves de Pyrene )

This wine has the kind of taut, fresh yet delicate feel that I associate with high altitude – and Etna Bianco Superiore wines can only be made in the commune of Milo, with Carricante grown between 900-1100m above sea level. This is superior by name, and by nature. Scents of white flowers and acacia lead to generous, rather sauvignon-like fruit. The finish is mineral and flinty with an attractive bitterness that makes it very thirst quenching and rather morish.

Drinking window: 2012-2015Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, White, Carricante

2011 Giuliemi Quantico Etna Bianco, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

Made in tiny quantities (only 1,500 bottles a year) by Giuliemi, from organically grown fruit. This is a blend of Etna’s indigenous Carricante, plus a splash of Grillo, which seems to add richness, and bring a rather unctuous texture to the party. Intense lime and grapefruit aromas, spicy, honeyed character and great minerality. What makes this all the more amazing is that no sulphur was added. Stunning, if atypical. When is someone going to import this to the UK?

Drinking window: 2012-2016Similar Wines: £10-£20, 91-95, Italy, White, Carricante, Grillo

2010 Cantine Russo Rampante Etna Bianco, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 12.5%, N/A UK (Available from the winery) )

A great example of Etna Bianco, with 70% Carricante and 30% Catarratto. Bone dry, flinty and herby, with green melon and capsicum on the nose. Rampante is one of 60 or so “Contrada”, or vineyard sites particularly known for high quality production in Etna. The fruit is ripe, manifesting a baked apple character as it develops in the mouth.

Drinking window: 2012-2016Similar Wines: £10-£20, 86-90, Italy, White, Carricante, Catarratto

2011 Biondi Chianta IGT Sicily, Etna, Sicily

( N/A, 13.5%, Passione Vino )

A single vineyard Carricante, with minute amounts of Catarratto, Minnella and Muscatello in the blend. There’s an enticing hint of vanilla pods on the nose, a very subtle reminder that this wine spent 9 months in French oak. There’s nothing heavy handed about it though – the fruit is predominantly grilled peaches, with a splash of woodspice and terrific freshness.

BuyDrinking window: 2013-2016Similar Wines: £20-£30, 91-95, Italy, White, Carricante