Sicily is a strange wine-making region with an inconsistent reputation among drinkers. Some are happy with a barrel of knocking Nero d'Avola, while others are drawn by Etna volcano with its intense reds and mineral whites. Yet the isle (with a few small buddies scattered around) is vast and diverse in styles. Sicily is a land where antiquity meets modern confusion, where the South doesn't mean heaviness and higher altitude doesn't necessarily mean elegance. And this is why every journey here is unique.
Some would say that my obsession with Sicily is troubling and calls for a medical examination. Maybe you are right. Meanwhile, just step aside and let me enjoy this journey organised by Vova Ulianov and Mykola Chobanu in one of the best places for wine tastings in Kyiv (yup, Garage!).
I Vigneri Aurora 2019
This wine secured the 🥉 3rd place in our wine tasting lineup.
Each label tells a story. Some of these stories are straightforward. And there is nothing sinister about it. Look, Aurora (means dawn) is also the Italian name of the Eastern Orange Tip butterfly (Anthocharis damone, if you even care), whose survival is at risk due to the changes in its natural habitat. Its geographical range is curious. In Europe, it is distributed only in Türkiye, Greece, Macedonia and southern Italy (Mount Etna in Sicily and Aspromonte in Calabria). For this reason, the species represent a real symbol of Mount Etna's biodiversity.
So what do we have here? A nature-caring winemaker, doomed butterfly species, and you in attempt to focus on the wine - not on these magnificent beasts. See? The narrative is ready.
On the other hand, Aurora is just a 90/10 blend of Carricante and Minnella Bianca from Contrada Caselle in the municipality of Milo, at 750 meters above sea level. The vines are young - planted in 2010 and 2015. Direct pressing of whole grapes with static and natural settling of the must for about 30 hours. After alcoholic fermentation, the wine rests for around 6 months in stainless steel tanks.
Biondi Pianta 2016
This wine secured the 🏅 7th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Our path brings us to Contrada Ronzini in the comune of Trecastagni. Here lies three terraced vineyards covering (approximately) 6 hectares. The white grapes (used for Pianta production) grow on a crater dating back to 125 BC. That sounds cool, right? But this is all the information I have about this wine.
Tenuta di Fessina A'Puddara Etna Bianco 2010
This wine secured the 🏅 5th place in our wine tasting lineup.
After visiting Sicily in 2006, Silvia Maestrelli decided to start a new phase in her life. And after lengthy negotiations with numerous landowners, she started Tenuta di Fessina on the slopes of Etna mountain. Since its start in 2007, Silvia Maestrelli was trying to combine the sensitivity of a "feminine" oenological vision with the unquestioned technical skills of consultants and collaborators.
A'puddara (a pole star) is an ode to Carricante, a guiding star of Mount Etna. The 2 ha vineyard was planted in 1950 at 900 meters above sea level. It is located in the Biancavilla production area (southern parts of the volcano), Contrada Manzudda. This area is composed of small volcanoes and crates from remote eras. They led to the formation of limestone caves and a terroir composed mainly of clayey particles, lapilli leftovers, sand and volcanic ash. There are tiny fractions of potassium, basaltic lavas and ancient tuffs. Combined with thermic excursion and the high rates of the genotypic acidity of the indigenous grapes (including Carricante), it is believed that the terroir produces wines with great ageing potential. Well, we have an opportunity to check it.
The fruits are crushed without de-stemming and softly pressed with separation of the musts. After cold static decantation, the wine is fermented in 3500-litre French oak barrels. Refined on lees for 6-8 months. Total production is relatively small - 6000 regular and 150 magnum bottles.
COS Pithos Bianco 2012
This wine secured the 🥈 2nd place in our wine tasting lineup.
Azienda Agricola COS was founded in 1980 by three friends: Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano. The name is just an acronym of their family names (in case you didn't notice).
COS started its adventure with biodynamic farming and neutral terracotta vases. In 2007 (after moving to a new location), they decided to get rid of all their oak barrels in favour of 150 huge amphoras.
Pithos Bianco is 100% Grecanico growing at 230 meters above sea level on red soils of limestone-siliceous nature. The average age of vines is 12 years. The fruits were fermented spontaneously in terracotta amphorae (as the name suggests) on the skins with indigenous yeasts. Aged for an undefined amount of time in amphora.
Girolamo Russo 'a Rina 2020
This wine secured the 🏅 4th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Making wine on the slopes of Mount Etna is an intensely personal, profound and ongoing act of love.
A friend of mine once said that all people divide into two categories: those who live in Valais and those who want to live there. I have never been there, but I understand this appreciation of the land you live in. And I think the same applies to Etna, at least to some extent. Unlike Silvia Maestrelli, Giuseppe Russo is affiliated with Etna by the right of birth. A graduate of the Humanities with a Diploma in piano, he re-established the family winery in 2005 and dedicated it to the memory of the late father, Girolamo. Their vineyards cover 18 hectares, surrounded by hazelnut and olive groves.
💡 "Fun" fact. The official site states that the vineyards cover 18 hectares. But the technical sheet of a'Rina 2018 talks about 19 hectares. Either a typo or the winery grew a bit. By the way, the Good Wine page says that Giuseppe owns 26 hectares, half of which he sells.
For a'Rina, Giuseppe sources grapes from almost every vineyard under his management - San Lorenzo, Feudo, Calderara Sottana and Feudo di Mezzo. The juice ferments in stainless steel tanks and small open vats for ten days. Then the wine spends 12 months in 2,600 L Slavonian oak casks and concrete tanks.
Benanti Etna Rosso Contrada Monte Serra 2016
This wine secured the 🏅 6th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Frankly, I have little to say about Benanti, a famous and respectable winemaker. Today, let me focus on the wine. It's a 100% Nerello Mascalese from vineyards in Contrada Monte Serra (Viagrande), located on the Southeast slope of Mount Etna. The elevation is 450 meters above sea level, which is practically the lower border of the Etna DOC production. The vines are of mixed ages and include some 100-year-old ones.
The hand-harvested and fully destemmed grapes undergo maceration and fermentation in stainless steel at controlled temperatures over approximately 21 days. The wine ages in French oak tonneaux for 12 months and then in stainless steel.
Frank Cornelissen Magma 2017
This wine secured the 🥇 1st place in our wine tasting lineup.
Ah you think magma is your ally? You merely adopted the magma. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't see the sun until I was already a vine, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!
Magma is molten rock that is underground, and lava is molten rock that breaks through the Earth's surface. Wait, I took the wrong book. Turns out, Magma is 100% Nerello Mascalese from Contrada Barbabecchi. The 100-year-old vines enjoy North and Northeast exposure at 870m - 910m above sea level. The vineyard was planted in 1910.
The grapes are destemmed and crushed lightly, and then the fermentation starts with Pied de Cuve. The juice stays in contact with the skin for about 50 days. The wine ages in 1500-2500 L neutral epoxy tanks for 18 months.