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Wine Culture

Ancient legends, accounts of travellers and naturalists, works of art, poems and tales are witnesses to the Etnean viticulture since earliest times. Here, the peculiar microclimate and the vulcano’s fertile soil provide an ideal ambientation for the vine. Since the age of the Sicels, three millennia ago, vines and wine have always been in the centre of people’s life on Mt. Etna.
And from the dawn of history to the 20th century, the gestures and manners of the vintners haven’t changed much. The wine presses that were in use up to a few years ago look the same as those described by Cato in 160 BCE. The vines have been bush-trained (what we call the alberello, little tree) for 30 centuries, and everywhere we still see the quincunx planting pattern every vine is equidistant from any other one surrounding it that was dear to the Greeks and Romans.

A landscape shaped by wine

In the 19th century Etna is Sicily’s most important wine producing area: vineyards cover more than half of the land and climb up to altitudes above 1,000 metres. Wine continues to shape the landscape: the black lava-stone terraces allow the vines to grow in formerly inaccessible places. The Circumetnea railway line is built to facilitate the transport of wine to the port of Riposto. From there, it is shipped to far-away places, all over Europe and the world.


Phylloxera, an inequitable taxation regime and the emigration of many peasants have almost succeeded in putting an end to such an ancient history. Only in the last two decades the groundbreaking work of pioneers like our oenologist Salvo Foti has given rise to the wine renaissance of Mt. Etna, back to conquer its rightful place among the great European terroirs.

The territory

Mt. Etna regenerates itself constantly, and generates new life and new culture: the frequent eruptions cause the landscape to be ever-changing, and the same power has the work of the people who persevere in living on the Muntagna. The lava flows that followed one another over the millennia have created an incredibly variable terrain. For as much as we help them with our work, the vines have to struggle to survive. Some send their roots down into fertile soil, others only find the volcanic bedrock. The microclimate is marked by extreme variability; we have rigid, almost alpine, temperatures in the winter, but in the summer the hot Sicilian sun brings us back to the South. Drought is exacerbated by the sandy volcanic soils. It costs us much labour to hold back at least a small amount of moisture that allows the plants not to give up.

An Etnean Wine

The vines suffer from all this, but suffering is a stimulus for the plants: they give few, but very rich fruits. Never too sweet or concentrated, always in great balance with the right acidity. Carricante, Minnella, Grecanico, Malvasia, Visparola among the white varietals, and the red ones Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Alicante, have always been cultivated on Mt. Etna. Usually, we find them planted side by side, in promiscuous vineyards. In these vineyards a primordial form of viticulture is practiced, and to produce an Etnean wine costs time, resources and effort. But we’re not able to imagine resorting to shortcuts, as only the respect of raditions enables us to make the kind of wine we want to make. The vines are bush-trained (in the alberello-system) and planted in high density, up to ten thousand vines per hectare. Thanks to the manual cure that the Vigneri reserve to each single plant, we need only a few treatments during the year, using only sulphur and bordeaux mixture. We harvest late in the year, and only healthy and naturally-grown grapes, to become great, really Etnean wines.