Etna – The Magic Mountain

POSTED ON 01/11/2014

Heading from the scruffy, coastal city of Catania in Sicily’s North-Eastern corner, a gentle winding drive up the broad circumference of the Mount Etna takes you through towns whose faded grandeur is testament to a bygone era of great prosperity. Like a wisp of cigarette smoke, you soon see a small cloud floating above the majestic summit of the volcano, which, even in early summer, has not yet shed its white mantle of snow.

One of the first things to strike you about the region is how fertile the surrounding countryside is. Host to a polyculture of orchards, berry fruits, figs, hazelnut and chestnut trees and of course vineyards, there is a special wild beauty in its colourful blooms of poppies and dandelions, its thistle, fennel and perfumed yellow broom. Yet it’s impossible to forget that like an irascible giant, Etna has blown its top spectacularly and often with devastating consequences.

The effects of Etna’s pyroclastic flows are visible in the many scatterings of dark boulders and lavas scree strewn across fields close to the roadside. Destructive and productive at the same time, the taming of Etna’s natural power is evident in the sombre stone of pavement flagstones and buildings and the drystone walls that form horizontal vineyards terraces on the gentle slopes of the mountainside.

Given Etna’s unique terrain, it’s hardly surprising that its forte is not so much in international as in native grape varieties. Grown at altitude on Etna’s slopes, nerello mascalese and carricante are quality local grapes capable of producing reds and whites respectively of remarkable flavour and structure.

Nerello mascalese (the black grape of Mascoli), sometimes with nerello cappuccio in minor key, is responsible for pale red wines with beguiling perfumes, sensual wild red berry and sour cherry fruit flavours not a million miles from pinot noir or nebbiolo. Its sweet spot lies between the two roads of Quota 600 and Quota Mille, respectively at 600 and 1000 metres, that link Linguaglossa and Randazzo.

Carricante is its refreshing, zesty, bone dry, often saline white counterpart. Both grapes derive their structure, biting acidity and minerality from Etna’s sandy, volcanic soils, its Mediterranean-influenced, continental climate and, as often as not, its many ancient, pre-phylloxera, bush vines.

With the help of the oenologist Salvo Foti, Giuseppe Benanti, who ran the family pharmaceutical company in nearby Catania, pioneered the new Etna in 1988 by restoring the family’s abandoned Etna vineyards and introducing modern winemaking techniques with his dry white wine, Pietramarina.

In Passopisciaro on the slopes of Etna, Giuseppe Russo took over the running of the estate in 2004 when his father died, maintaining the family name Giralomo Russo. The previous owners of the cellar he occupies were wine merchants. The area was always considered the best for red wines which would be transported in bulk directly to the port. That was then and much has changed with some 65 – 70 producers of Etna wine today, mostly small, some tiny.

From almost 15 hectares scattered around different areas between 670 and 750 metres, Russo brings in small quantities at a time as he gets to know each vineyard parcel individually,. ‘As in all older vineyards’, says Russo, ‘one of the reasons you get richness and complexity in the older vines is because they’re part of a field blend’. He makes four reds, three of them, Feudo, San Lorenzo and Feudi di Mezzo, excellent wines made from 60-year-old vines, some even older.

Starting 10 years ago in Solicchiata at between 600 – 900 metres above sea level on the northern slopes of Etna within the district of the hilltown Castiglione di Sicilia, Michele Faro of Pietradolce resurrected the tradition of winemaking started by his grandfather on Etna’s stony, light, sandy loam soils. Etna’s popularity is growing, says Faro, as Italians are starting to discover it.

‘Etna is a region within a region and is a world apart from with the rest of Sicily. With its minerality, its acidity and its elegance, Etna is a different planet. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain because when people think of Sicilian wine, they think of alcohol, power and structure, but Etna is different. Despite the outside investors, it’s still about the terroir’.

In addition to local companies such as Benanti, Planeta, Tasca d’Almerita and Cusumano, well-heeled newcomers who came in search of a fresh challenge from 2000 onwards included the flamboyant Florentine wine merchant, Marc de Grazia, wine with his property Tenuta delle Terre Nere, the intense Belgian, Frank Cornelissen, with his high altitude Magma red, and the dynamic Andrea Franchetti from Rome, whose property Passopisciaro takes its name from the local village.

The boom brought a steady stream of newcomers, among them Peter Wiegner, a Swiss entrepreneur, Mick Hucknall of the rock band Simply Red with his wine, Il Cantante, and, one of the most impressive of all, Tuscany’s Silvia Maestrelli at Tenuta di Fessina. Her two dry whites made from carricante, Musmeci and a’Puddara, are both outstanding, while her top red, Musmeci, made from 90 – 100 years-old nerello mascalese vines, is mesmerising.

One of Etna’s most extraordinary vineyards is Alberto Graci’s Barbabecchi vineyard. At 1000 metres above sea level, this uneconomical monument to a former era produces just 100 bottles of wine from 6000 ancient bush vines scattered higgledy-piggledy on vineyard terraces among grass, bushes and wild flowers. The 2011 Barbabecchi, with its intense wild dark berry fruits flavours is like a halfway house between great Barolo and red Burgundy.

At this dizzying height, with spectacular views over the Ionian Sea, you begin to realise that with its unique aspect, altitude, old vines and volcanic soils, the haunting, terrible beauty of Etna is indeed all about a very special terroir. You begin to comprehend why, despite the many challenges of such a mysterious and dangerous force of nature, growers, wine lovers and tourists alike are drawn to the magnet of the magic mountain.

Chinese Version

伦敦之声 回味
有瑞士企业家Peter Wiegner,也有摇滚乐队 “Simply Red”的Mick Hucknall和他的酒款 “Il Cantante”,最令人印象深刻的托斯卡 纳的Silvia Maestrelli女士创立的Tenuta di Fessin酒庄,其两款由carricante酿制的干白 Musmeci 和 a’Puddara,都是很优秀的佳酿。 而她高端的红葡萄酒Musmeci,酿自90–100 年的nerello mascalese老藤,非常迷人!
埃特纳火山最为非凡的葡萄园是Alberto Graci的Barbabecchi葡萄园。这个位于在海 拔1000米的、作为上一时代象征的标志性葡 萄园,以杂草、灌木、野花中的梯田葡萄园上 6000株老藤酿出100瓶酒。Barbabecchi 2011年 份有着集中的野黑莓的香气,介乎很棒的巴 罗洛和勃艮第红酒之间。
文 /AnthonyRose 译/张然
位于西西里岛东北角沿海小城卡塔尼 亚(Catania),轻柔的海风吹过埃特 纳 火 山 ( M o u n t E t n a ) 一 带 ,无 比 壮阔的火山峰上飘浮着片片浮云,甚至在初 夏,山顶的积雪仍然不会融化。埃特纳火山的 火山岩碎屑直逼公路附近,在许多深色卵石 和碎石中清晰可见。
生长在埃特纳火山的斜坡上,nerello mascalese和 carricante是酿造红葡萄酒和白 葡萄酒的本地葡萄品种,有着出色的风味和 结构。Nerello mascalese,有时和少量nerello cappuccio一起混酿而成一种淡红色的、充满 诱人的野红莓和酸甜樱桃的香气,有点像黑 皮诺或是内比奥罗。Carricante则可以用来酿 造 清 新 、活 泼 、绝 干 ,且 常 常 带 有 一 些 咸 感 的 白葡萄酒。两种葡萄品种都能从埃特纳火山 的沙质火山土地中海气候影响和大陆性气候 以及根瘤蚜虫灾害以前的老藤得到酸度和矿 物感。
在酿酒师Salvo Foti的帮助下,在意大 利卡塔尼亚(Catania)附近经营着制药公司 的Giuseppe Benanti在1988年开始重建一 个废弃的位于埃特纳火山的家族葡萄园, 并且引进现代酿造技术来酿造干白葡萄酒 “Pietramarina”。
2004年,Giuseppe Russo在他的父亲过 世后接管了这个位于埃特纳火山山坡上的 Passopisciaro小镇的酒庄,依然以家族命名 Giralomo Russo。之前的酒庄主是一位葡萄 酒商人。这里从前一直是生产红葡萄酒最好 的地方,以散装酒直接运到港口。现在这里约 有埃特纳火山产区的65–70个葡萄酒生产者, 多数是小酒庄,有些非常小。
之间的不同地块,Russo了解每个地块,分别 酿 造 。“ 因 为 都 是 一 些 老 葡 萄 园 , ” R u s s o 说 , “从老葡萄藤得到的丰富性和复杂度的原因 之一是因为不同地块的混种。”他酿了4款红 葡萄酒,其中Feudo、San Lorenzo 和 Feudi di M e z z o 都 来 自 6 0 年 的 老 藤 ,有 的 甚 至 更 老 。
10年前,Pietradolce酒庄的Michele Faro 就开始在山城西西里堡(Castiglione di Sicilia) 的Solicchiata小镇,位于海拔600–900米之间 的埃特纳火山北坡酿酒,续写其祖父在这片 富含石块和壤土的土地上酿酒的传统。Faro 说,随着意大利人开始发现了它的魅力,现在 的埃特纳火山的声望在上升。
“埃特纳火山是一个与西西里岛其他 地方隔绝的、产区中的产区。它所带有的矿 物感、酸度和优雅,决定了它是一个不同的产
Barbabecchi 2011年份有着集中的野黑莓的香气, 介乎很棒的巴罗洛和勃艮第红酒之间。
区。有时候难于向人们解释,当人们想到西西 里的葡萄酒,他们想到的是高酒精度、强劲和 结构,但埃特纳火山产区是特别的。尽管有许 多外来投资者,它仍然是关于‘风土’的”。
除了本地的酒庄如Benanti、Planeta、 Tasca d’Almerita和Cusumano, 2000年开 始陆续前来寻找新鲜挑战的富有的酒商,包 括高调的佛罗伦萨的酒商Marc de Grazia和 他的“Tenuta delle Terre Nere”,富有激情 的比利时人Frank Cornelissen和他的高海拔 的“Magma”红葡萄酒,以及活跃的罗马人 AndreaFranchetti,其passopisciaro的名字来 自当地的村庄。
(Ionian Sea)的壮观景色,你开始意识到它 独特的一面,高海拔、老藤和埃特纳火山岩的 土壤。埃特纳火山造就了非常特殊的风土。 你开始理解为什么自然的力量如此神秘和危 险,也挡不住葡萄种植者、葡萄酒爱好者以及 游客被这座拥有魔力的火山所深深吸引。
Anthony Rose
常住伦敦。英国葡萄酒记者和作家,在www.independent. co.uk开设周专栏。也为Decanter、 The World of Fine Wine 等杂志供稿。很多知名葡萄酒大赛的评委和主席。The Wine Gang 的创办人之一。博客,微 博Anthony _ Rose。
108   November 2014 葡萄酒评论
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