I have an unnatural fondness for the wine of Mount Etna. I was thinking about this the other day while pouring wine for an amazing Sicilian Wine Fest at the Wine House in Los Angeles. I love Etna wines pretty much more than any other Italian wines.
Mostly I think I love the idea of Etna- the volcano, threatening to errupt any day, could (and has) destroyed vineyards, homes, roads and anything else in its path. However it also gives life to the soil, creating a terroir rich in minerals, nutrients and ash. When you pair that with the unnaturally high vineyards and amazing exposure throughout the area you get some pretty extreme and elegant wines.
Some of my favorite Etna wines come from Vinicola Benanti. Dottore Benanti also happens to be one of my favorite Italians- suave, intelligent, and extremly passionate about making wine. You get the sense from him that he would be the best at anything he decided to do. If the many had decided to make shoelaces instead of wine, they would be the best shoelaces in the world- and what a loss to the wine industry it would have been! In fact, it’s hard to believe that the winery was actually this man’s second major business venture after founding a successful pharmaceutical company. Some people just have the magic dust…
If you are interested in geeky Italian wines, you must add Benanti to your list of wines to try. These are still semi-undiscovered, lovely gems that certified Italian wine people love… just take a look at this mention of Benanti’s “Single Varietal” Monvitigno Nerello Mascalese by Jeremy Parzen.
Etna wines range in price from VERY affordable, to Less Affordable (but MUCH more affordable than they have a right to be!). Start with an Etna Rosso or an Etna Bianco- you’ll be shocked by how different these are from the pruny, jammy Nero d’Avola and rich Sicilian Syrah you might have tried before. This is an entirely new side of the volcano!