Mt. Etna’s 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.

Rebirth

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.

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