An extraordinary sensory journey between vines and cellars, fire and sea, to discover the amazing universe of Etna wine.
All that nature has of great, all it has of pleasant, all it has of terrible, can be compared to Etna and Etna cannot be compared to anything. Dominique Vivant Denon, “Voyage en Sicile”, 1788
So how can we describe something that is without parallel? Well, we can start by explaining what Mount Etna, with a height of 3350 metres, simply is not. Etna is not just a part of Sicily, not just a volcano, not just an extraordinary example of biodiversity. Mount Etna is all of this, but also much more. It is a vantage point, a universe in itself. A place where the combination of water, fire, air and earth creates a sight that is unique in the world.
The characteristics of Etna wine
This extraordinary conjunction not only results in breathtaking views, woods and endless countryside, but also creates the best environmental conditions for the production of a very special wine. The microclimate that characterises the slopes of Etna influences the grapes growing in the area, while the minerality of the volcanic soil lends elegance, refinement and salinity to the Etna wines, making them renowned and appreciated worldwide.
Thus, it is not only the climate, but also the volcano itself that makes Etna wines truly unique. Its frequent eruptions result in the so-called “rain of lapilli”: small lava fragments that are spewed into the sky by the volcano and that, once they reach the ground, turn into a one-of-a-kind nutrient for the local vines.
The role of Mount Etna is so valuable and crucial that the volcanic nature of its wines can be detected even in blind tasting.
Despite sharing many common features, Etna wines are also very different from each other. Each side of the “Muntagna”, as the locals like to call Mount Etna, is characterised by different terroirs, sunlight exposure, temperature variation and altitude (which, for the vineyards, varies between 400 and 800 metres above sea level but can as well reach 1000 metres).
The Northern slope, for example, is renowned for its production of red wines (Nerello Mascalese being one of the most popular indigenous grape varieties), while on the Eastern slope it is more common to produce white wines, especially the ancient Carricante wine.
All these features bring great value and success to the products of Etna wineries: every year, the strong personality of these wines attracts hundreds of experts, enthusiasts and curious tourists, who want to visit Etna’s vineyards and wineries. There are also many tours that will satisfy every taste: the “Treno del Vino” (‘wine train’) and the “Wine Bus”, tours of Etna vineyards and wineries and local wine and food tasting experiences.
Wine and wineries on Mount Etna
The area of production of Etna DOC – this is the official name for wines and spumanti produced on Mount Etna’s slopes – encompasses twenty towns and can be located on the map by tracing a reversed, C-shaped line around the north-eastern side of the volcano, from Viagrande to Randazzo.
If you are thinking that this area is too big to explore in a short time, don’t worry! By taking part in the tour “Strada del Vino dell’Etna”, you will be able to experience the beauty and the uniqueness of these places and visit both small wineries and big vineyards, renowned cellars and smaller wine producers.
As difficult as it is to choose among the many wineries that can be found on the territory, we have selected some local producers that best embody the soul of Etna wines.
Beside producing Etna wines, this winery offers you the opportunity to stop by and enjoy a wine tasting experience. The Tenuta Tascante is located in Passopisciaro, between Randazzo and Castiglione di Sicilia. The “Tasca D’Almerita” wine, one of the most famous products of this winery, evokes all the typical sensations that are associated with the tasting of Etna wines. Moreover, it is possible to visit Tenuta Tascante and its cellar upon reservation. There, surrounded by vines of Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Carricante, you will be able to taste Etna volcanic wines. Even the surrounding landscape, with its olive trees, vineyards and chestnut trees will leave you breathless.
Benanti winery, located between Viagrande and Trecastagni, is a long-established wine producer in the area around Mount Etna. The constant pursuit of excellence in the vineyards and in the cellar is what characterises Benanti’s philosophical and technical approach. Benanti wines stand out for their character, authenticity and elegance, with their added value being the diversity that derives from being produced on every side of Mount Etna. The production of Benanti wines, in fact, covers the entire Etna DOC area and each flank of the volcano, encompassing four Contrada, small districts around Mount Etna that differ in climate and terroir. From south to north, Benanti wines come from the vineyards of Contrada Cavaliere, Contrada Monte Serra, Contrada Rinazzo, Contrada Dafara Galluzzo.
“I Vigneri” is the name of the winery owned by Salvo Foti and a group of other local oenologists and located in the small town of Milo. With great attention to the employment of non-invasive tools and methods and in accordance with tradition, this winery tends its ancient vines that, to this day, produce a very refined, quality wine. The name “I Vigneri” derives from “Maestranza dei Vigneri”, a union of local winemakers founded in 1435 in Catania. The history of this Maestranza laid the foundations for a long-standing wine-making tradition and a way of working in the vineyards that is typical of the area (for example, the grapes are harvested in mid-October, when the vines are almost bare).
Moving north, more precisely in Castiglione di Sicilia, we find the Monteleone winery. This winery is set in a unique and picturesque landscape, at the foot of the volcano and near the river Alcantara. There, a family business and a project launched in 2017 have led to the production of authentic Etna wines. Their vines, located in two different Contrada, Contrada Cuba and Contrada Pontale Palino, are characterised by different terroirs. As a consequence, their wines differ depending on the vineyard and each vine has thus been assigned a specific label. Wines such as the Monteleone Etna Rosso DOC and the Cuba Etna Rosso DOC (Nerello Mascalese) are the perfect example of the typical flavour of Etna red wines, of their elegance and diversity.
The most beautiful holiday villas on Mount Etna
For those who want to explore Mount Etna and its landscapes, live many adventures and also enjoy a relaxing stay, we have selected five beautiful holiday villas on Mount Etna, just a stone’s throw away from wine routes and the main attractions of the area.
Etna Retreat in Castiglione di Sicilia
In the northern part of the Etna DOC area. It is a recently restored manor house set in a beautiful estate. This villa boasts both a breathtaking panoramic view of Mount Etna and an infinity pool.
La Torretta in Zafferana Etnea
La Torretta is an old rural farmhouse that has recently been restored and turned into an exclusive and refined villa with private saltwater pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and Turkish bath. The perfect place for a relaxing stay on the slopes of Mount Etna.
Mila a Milo
Mila is located on the Ionian coast between the sea, the countryside and Mount Etna. This villa is set in a quiet and sunny position and boasts spacious panoramic terraces and a private pool with sea view.
Viagrande in Trecastagni
Viagrande is a luxury villa with private pool situated near Trecastagni, a small village on the south-eastern flank of Mount Etna, 20 km away from Catania. This villa is conveniently located a few kilometres away from Etna Natural Park and the wine routes of “Strada del Vino dell’Etna”.
Palmento La Rosa in Trecastagni
Palmento la Rosa is an old country house with an overflow pool and a view over Mount Etna. The property has been tastefully restored with great attention to detail and preserving its original style. Some of this villa’s most stunning features are its wooden ceiling beams, lava stone elements and a splendid garden with terraces offering a view over the vineyards of the property.