The wines of Etna, Sicily

These notes accompany a in-depth feature on Sicily. For profiles of all of these estates please see Regional report: Sicily and the wines of Etna.


Pietradolce, Archineri Etna DOC Bianco 2013, Italy
All Carricante, from the eastern part of Etna near Milo and vineyards at 850 metres. Pre-phylloxera vines of 100 to 120 years old. No oak. Delicacy from the first sniff, with minerality and the most gentle, floral-touched pear aroma – not the peardrop of cold ferment, but fine, soft pear skins and juice. There is something herb-touched and very grippy, it is the thrilling, nervous austerity that is lovely here. 91-92/100.

Pietradolce, Etna DOC Rosato 2013, Italy
DOC Etna Rosato. 13%. 40-year-old Nerello Mascalese, planted a little lower around 600 hectares, an unoaked wine with very soft pressing. Very soft peachy/onion skin colour. Lovely nose, with a gentle smokiness and herbal, lightly earthy character, nice briar and woodland touches. The palate has some roundness and a touch of raspberry or reducurrant, with then a powerful punch of mineral acidity, bone-dry with salty notes coming through and such a savoury finish. 89-90.

Pietradolce, Etna DOC Rosso 2012, Italy
14.5% abv. DOC Etna, again from the young vineyard we visited first, planted in 2006 at 600 metres, and all Nerello Mascalese. A blend of alberello bush vines and some espalier trained vines. Made in steel with 500-litre tonneaux of old wood for three months. A pale ruby to pale orangey pink on the rim. So appealing, with Pinot like charcters of briar and damp autumn woodland, spices and soft wisping smokiness. The fruit is of light, autumnal red berries and hedgerows. The palate has a hint of creaminess to the flavour, a softness verging on strawberry, but the earthy and briar at the core of this drives through, a nice rustic grip of tannin and plenty of spice and acidity. Delicious. 90/100.

Pietradolce, Archineri Etna DOC Rosso 2012, Italy
x60% from the high pre-phylloxera vineyard we visited and 40% from in front of the tasting room. 14 months in 500-litre used tonneaux, vineyards at around 600 and 900 metres, and aged from 40- to 80-years-old. Much deeper more full ruby colour, but still light and transparent. A little more coffee and exotic spice to the aromas, a touch of meatiness and plenty more of that truffly, undergrowthy Pinot character – obviously more concentration. Such a beautiful plate, loaded with lightly fleshy, spicy red fruits, but a firm core of tannin and intensity, lovely acid lift and freshness, and a long, spice-infused finish with a certain sauvage wild bramble character. 15% does make itself felt slightly when tasted with food, but what a great potential here. 92-93/100.

Pietradolce, Archineri Etna DOC Rosso 2010, Italy
Same winemaking, and from a similar vintage, but obviously an extra couple of years in bottle. Much softer colour, much more orangey/amber. Mellow and surprisingly mature on the nose, lovely smoky aromatics, spice, gamy, hints of appealing blood and barnyard earthiness. Does it lack the layers of the 2012 perhaps? That’a arguable, but what a lovely line of vinosity, the line of fine acidity and fine, briary, spicy tannins, give this a lot of grip, a lot of concentration, finishing in a lovely fine point. There is grip here, but an inherent softness and truffly approachability, and it’s a wine that I would love to taste again in a few years. 92-93/100. 14% alcohol.

Pietradolce, Vigna Barbagalli Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy, Italy
All from the top, pre-phylloxera vineyard at 900 meteres, 20 months in tonneaux, a very small percentage new. 14.5%. Vines 80-100 years old, and all alberello. Soft, light and transparent colour, with a good ruby at core and touch of light amber on the rim. Wonderful nose, with plentiful spice, sandalwood and cedar, with that briary, sappy lift, the truffle and cherry stone lift. Superb palate too, the silkiness here of the old vine concentration and supple tannin, with a really harmonious palate, lots of cherry and ripe red plum, but the line of acidity and firm, tight tannic structure. Ashy dry, with touches of tobacco, liquorice and lovely length and concentration. 94/100. 2,000 bottle production.

Pietradolce is imported into the UK by Armit. See stockists on wine-searcher

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Girolamo Russo, Etna Bianco DOC Nerina 2012, Italy
A blend of 60% Carricante from an old field blend vineyard, with a whole variety of other bits and pieces including Inzolia and Grecanico. etc. Giuseppe thinks it is best to open and drink one day later. There’s a wisp of smoke and gunflint, with dry, concentrated fruit skins, a real suggestion of serious grip. The palate has richness and texture to spare, a real salty grip, and lots of toast and structure, the salt and firmness is lovely, rich and chewy. Needs food. 90/100.

Girolamo Russo, Etna Rosato DOC 2013, Italy
All Nerello Mascalese in this 12.5% rosato, whole bunches go into the press for two or three hours of maceration to take the colour. Very pale, Provencal colour. Very youthful confectionery ferment aromas. The fruit seems light and crisp. With a juicy, crisp raspberry brightness. The palate is sparkling clean – lovely mid palate weight and texture, suggestion of ripeness, but then a sustained finish with plenty of that Etna character, salts and minerals. 87-88/100.

Girolamo Russo, ‘A Rina’ Etna Rosso DOC 2012, Italy
14.5% alcohol in this blend of 94% Mascalese and 6% Cappuccio assembled from all three cru territories, and around 50% old vines. Matured for one year in barriques, but none new. Quite deep with a soft amber glow to the ruby core. Seductive spices and animal, bloody aromas, so primal, with soft autumnal character that is so inviting. The palate has delicious edge and spice, gorgeous fruit density but not heavy or closed- an open welcoming style for Pinot lovers. 90/100. 7.70

Girolamo Russo, Feudo di Mezzo Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy
14.5% again for this and the following wines. A 2,000-bottle production and 100% Mascalese, a lot of fruit from 100-year-old vines at 670 metres in the blend, but the average age of the whole blend is around 80 years. Slightly more depth to the colour than the ‘A Rina’, with smouldering, creamy and deep forest fruits, that lovely woodland, undergrowth touch, but the core is really quite taut, concentrated, and spicy and fruity. The palate has delicious texture and silkiness, the tannins have a roughening edge, but that just gives texture and context to the spices, the deep fruit and the lovely balance of the finish, with tannin, spice and cherry skin acid giving so much energy and life. 94/100.

Girolamo Russo, Feudo Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy
This vineyard sits at 640 metres, and 95% of the blend is 65-year-old vines. Feral stuff, wild animal notes, scorched earth and blood, and just a touch of something resinous, but massive character and depth here. A huge, deep, structured wine on the palate, with great depth, sinewy richness and then the Etna freshness and suggestion of elegance kicks in, spicy and fruit concentration. 94/100.

Girolamo Russo, San Lorenzo Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy
The highest vineyard at 750 metres, and 80-year old vines. Very deep, very herbal in a way, more lift to this with the palate loaded with very fresh fruit, lots of cherry and brightness, but perhaps not quite the depth and persistent focus, finishing with lovely fruit and could well be one that just needs more time. Could potentially be one to soar above the others in several years from now. 92-94/100.

Girolamo Russo is imported into the UK by Goedhuis. See stockists on wine-searcher

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Graci, Etna Bianco DOC 2013, Italy
A sample of this Carricante entry-level white, to be bottled next month. Ferment aromas, but then a really lovely juicy lime and orange, also a robust fruit skin phenolic, quite complex and grippy, though there is not a long skin maceration. The palate bursts with fruit and tangy, salty minerals, a really nice fresh and crisp Bianco, but with some steel and character. 87-88/100.

Graci, Arcuria Etna Bianco DOC 2011, Italy
The Cru Arcuria is also all Carricante, and 13% alcohol. Vertical basket pressed and vinified in cement, then 30% goes into tonneaux. Lovely vanilla and almond nose, leading on to buoyant, abundant fruit aromas, lemon rind and a sense of richness, but not the phenolics of the 2013 Bianco. Gorgeous palate, the ground almond smoothness and richness underlined by fine fruit and acidity. Fabulous and delicious. 91/100.

Graci, Etna Rosato DOC 2013, Italy
13.5% abv for this Nerello Mascalese pink, the colour coming from a brief period in the press with no maceration. Slightly deeper, slightly peachier colour than some and vinous, with a yeastiness and richness, so meaty and vinous, a steely uncompromising core. Nicely steely, lemony and food friendly stuff. Rabbit, pork or chicken. 87-88/100.

Graci, Etna Rosso DOC 2012, Italy
100% Nerello Mascalese from low yields, with a long maceration for a month. Vinified in cement, with 30% in botti. A dry vintage, much darker and more solidly ruby than the rosato from Girolamo Russo for example. Very sophisticated perfume, all cedar and graphite, tight and vinous with a solidity to the aromas and a youthfulness. The palate is filled with creamy, rich red and black fruit. A very different expression of Mascalese with a sour cherry acid grip too, and a long, serious, slightly ferrous finish that is lovely. 90/100.

Graci, Arcuria Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy
Again 100% Mascalese vinified in cement and then aged in big barrels (1000 litre for one year). 14% alcohol. Fabulous nose, with a lot cherry and kirsch, a sense of real ripeness and fruit fatness, but also has that hint of sappiness, massive ripeness and sweetness, an upfront and tightly defined take on Mascalese, vinous, but does not lose sight of its roots, with the spice of the grape and the freshening hit of Etna minerality lifting the finish. Delicious, solid and tastes ‘big’ despite the modest alcohol for Etna. 92-93/100.

Graci, Arcuria Etna Rosso DOC 2012, Italy
A vat sample, but the final blend. Very dark, solid, crimson colour, with kirsch and black cherry freshness and a really fragrant, floral lift in there too. There is a touch of resinous woody character, but has concentration and dry, tannic heft. Should be superb given some time in bottle. 91-93/100. 14.5%

Graci, Barbabecchi Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy
Also a sample of the wine from the extraordinary 1000-metre vineyard, with 13% alcohol. Very rich colour, deep and vibrant, with a touch of amber at the rim: immediate suggestion of elegance. Fantastic nose, lots of leafiness, lots of autumnal character, like walking through a forest after the rain, with such delicate floral nuances, from old roses to touches of exotic spices. The palate has beautiful symmetry, with a depth of coffee and spice, but a sappiness too, a natural concentration. Gorgeous stuff, so deliciously complex, soft and yet with that energy and life-force through to the finish that is endlessly long and delicately nuanced. Tasting history in the glass. 96/100.

Graci is imported into the UK by Imported by Berry Bros. See all stockists on wine-searcher

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bottle Tenuta di Fessina, A’Puddara Etna Bianco DOC 2012, Italy
A 13.5% abv Carricante, for this and Musmeci Federico buys from growers with whom he works closely. This fruit comes from 60 year old vines in Santa Maria di Licodia southwest of Etna, at 900 metres. Fermented and aged in botti for nine months in total. This vintage went through natural malolactic fermentation, but doesn’t always. Silvia also keeps it for one to two years in bottle. Some herbal touches to this, but lemon and melon skins, lots of phenolic content. This has a touch of apparent sweetness on the mid-palate and fruit concentration, but that mineral content really streaks through, with pithy and taut but juicy lemon and that lick of saline. 89-90/100.

Tenuta di Fessina, Il Musmeci Cru Etna DOC 2012, Italy
13% alcohol and 90 year old Carricante, from Milo on eastern Etna at 1000 metres. Fermented in big 35,000 litre barrels for one month, then vinification finishes in steel before a year in bottle before release. Pale green colour, with dry, pear skins and minerals, a lot of skinny grip evident here, with the palate crystal clear – lots of crisp, dazzling minerality, with a sour lemon and apple juiciness and thrust. Very fine and long, with a touch of that salty mineral Etna finish, a tighter, more structured, verging on the intellectual austerity. 91/100.

Tenuta di Fessina, Erse Etna DOC 2012, Italy
Nerello Mascalese with 17% Nerello Cappuccio and 3% of Carricante. white grapes, co-planted. The vines are 70- 80 years old, which are the youngest on the home property. Components are harvested and vinified separately in steel. Lovely pale ruby colour, delightful briar and coffee nose a touch of dried Porcini, lovely dry woody notes. The palate carries on, with that lovely dry wood and mushroom note, sappiness and light wind-blown earth, very fine tannins start to grip, with very good acidity and a long, spice-infused finish, touches of prune, but not overripe, just the flavour. 90-91/100.

Tenuta di Fessina, Laneo IGT Sicilia 2012, Italy
This will be Sicilia DOC from 2013. Only 12.5%, it is 100% Nerello Cappuccio from Santa Maria di Licodia. It is vinified in stainless steel. Much bolder colour, but still not dense or too dark. Briary and stalky to an extent, but has more cherry and red fruit brightness, with a touch of liquorice, but it is dry on the palate, a little linear and simpler than the Mascalese, a cherry skin grip and really attractive, but lacks the seductive qualities of Mascalese. 89-90/100.

Tenuta di Fessina, Ero 2012, Italy
Nero d’Avola from Noto, two vineyards which they own, one 17 years old and one 70 years old. Bold but not dense crimson purple, with lots and lots of cherry and bold black fruit, a little sappiness and polished old wood note, quite dry. The palate is dry and juicy with loads of buoyant cherry, but so nicely textured and rich, without any oak, just the density and natural concentration of the grapes, the slightly savage character. Very nice spices and tight tannic structure, good cherry skin acidity too. 90/100.

Tenuta di Fessina, Nerello Mascalese Il Musmeci Cru 2010, Italy
From the very oldest pre-Phylloxera vines of the estate, 90- to 100 years old. Only the loosest most open bunches that are fully ripe and healthy are used, and it is aged for one year in 50% botti, 50% 500-litre tonneaux, about 30% of which is new. It then spends four to five years in bottle before sale. Quite a deep but beautifully soft colour, masses of spice and tobacco, the exotic spices hinting at Sandalwood and cedar, with such lovely red berry fruit beneath. The palate has texture and richness, the oak barely perceptible as a tinge of smoke and coffee, but the core of sweet, sweet cherry fruit, of tight tannin and the cherry-skin tang of acidity, along with a mineral, stony dryness and savouriness. Beautiful stuff in flavour, texture and balance. Potential to be every bit as good as the 2008. 93-94/100.

Tenuta di Fessina, Nerello Mascalese Il Musmeci Cru 2008, Italy
14% alcohol, this vintage is currently on the market. Same winemaking as the 2010. Possibly a shade deeper, but similar colour. Tighter aromatic, a little more briary and cedary, a touch of clove and even a tiny medicinal note, with nice earthiness – hot earth and that little sappy touch very savoury and fine. There is lovely sweet cherry again, that lovely bitterness of endive and even a Campari, bitters note. It is very grown-up, very taut and graphite-like, with such lovely freshness, the tight minerality and the juiciness of the acidity, cherries and orange, is gorgeous against the hints of coffee richness. Beautiful stuff. 93-94/100.

Fessina is imported into the UK by FortyFive10. See stockists of on wine-searcher

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bottle Cottanera, Barbazzale Etna Bianco DOC 2013, Italy
A big production with 80k bottles. A blend of Inzolia and Viognier from 700 metres, all from steel. Plenty of attractive aroma here, pears and preserved lemons, with a touch of herbs and cool mint leaf. The palate is a touch dilute arguably, but love the sweetness and freshness. Very attractive, easy drinking stuff. 85/100.

Cottanera, Etna Bianco DOC 2009, Italy
13% abv. This was the first vintage of this wine. Beautiful nuttiness and oatmeal and honey, lovely mellow development with nuttiness and a touch of apricot ripeness. Five months on the yeast adding that creaminess. The palate is nutty and has good orchard fruit. At this age it lacks a little of the Etna freshness and complex acid drive, but it is spicy and has enough cut, a squeeze of juicy orange and lemon to finish. 87/100.

Cottanera, Etna Bianco DOC 2011, Italy
This has more of the mineral, herby punch and again nutty and apple aromas, a touch of than oatmeal character. The palate has quite full, creamy and voluptuous mouth-feel, with a nice grapefruit and orange core of acidity, but again it has that creaminess and richness both of texture and of nutty and oatmeally flavours. It again perhaps just lacks that extra ounce of acidity given by the eastern Etna soils to Carricante, but is a rounded, very savoury and food-friendly style. 88-89/100

Cottanera, Etna Bianco DOC 2013, Italy
This vintage was 100% Carricante, and they think that from now on they will stick to the single variety. This still shows the pear-droppy aromas of cool ferment, those adding a lift to the pear fruit. The palate has more freshness than the older wines, more brightness and gripping acidity. The creaminess of texture and the dry apple fruit come through, a big blast of fresh cut lemon in the finish. Possibly the better of the three, though the youthfulness makes it hard to judge. 88-89/100.

Cottanera, Etna Rosso DOC 2005, Italy
14% abv. All fruit from the 35-year-old vineyard. Again, this was the first vintage of this, their top wine. Pleasing, old mahogany colour, pale amber on rim. Quite a dull aromatic at first, but with aggressive swirling it does start to reveal some forest floor and light mushroomy notes, earthy, and although still not quite singing it does still have a red fruit freshness. There’s a small suggestion of over ripeness on the palate here perhaps, a tiny dried fruit quality, and this does not quite have the agility some, though spice and cherry fruit does come through, really quite spicy tannins, giving this a long, lip-tingling finish. 88/100.

Cottanera, Etna Rosso DOC 2007, Italy
13.5% abv. Much deeper colour, brambles and briar, touches of bracken and leafiness, but also a certain red fruit creaminess and touch of coffee, milky creamy coffee. The palate has a slick feel to it, quite silky in terms of the tannins, the fruit solid and very sweet through the mid palate, and finishing with grip and substance. The finish is powerful, spicy and meaty, but there is more life and energy here than in the 2005. Chewy stuff, but not without elegance. 89/100.

Cottanera, Etna Rosso DOC 2009, Italy
13.5% abv. Rich ruby/crimson, with not much development to the colour. Lovely nose, for me much more Nerello, with truffle and game, the lovely autumnal woodland feel, a touch of coffee and underpinning of brambly, spicy fruit. The palate is very smooth again, a polish and suaveness to the tannins, and another wine that has a solidity and meatiness, as opposed to the sauvage and undulating qualities of the Pietradolce for example. Spicy, solid and savoury, this finishes with very good balance and spicy length. 89/100.

Cottanera, Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy
13.5% abv. Youthful crimson, touch of pink on rim. More spicy lift here, more cedar and more of the truffle and game character again. There is a meaty solid red fruit, and underpinning of chocolate and coffee, with a really appealing character. The palate is much juicier and firmer than in the older vintages, with spice, a touch of polished wood or briar, and a refreshing twist of acidity and tannin. A very commercial wine, but I do really like the balance and extra hit of edgy liquorice and spice. 90/100.

Cottanera, L’Ardenza Mondeuse IGT Sicilia 2009, Italy
13.5% abv. Mondeuse is a grape of Savoie in France, that arrived by mistake from the nursery, so they decided to keep it. Twelve months in French oak barrique, 40% new. Dark and dense, big graphite and coffee nose, with a black fruit ripeness and freshness. On the palate this has more agility and energy than you might imagine, with a raciness to the fruit and acidity, and a nicely roughening grip from the tannins, plenty of fat and creaminess, but the toast and coffee also add attractive depth. 89-90/100.

Cottanera is imported into the UK by Prestige Wines. See stockists on wine-searcher

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bottle Wiegner, Elisena IGP Sicilia 2011, Italy
Made from Fiano, this shows lovely honeysuckle and light pear, with a gentle creaminess and note of almond blossom. The palate has a delicious, lightly bitter bite, that nice crunch and crispness, with good acid balance, dry pear and light lemony flavours into that lightly salty, bitter finish. 13.0%. 87/100.

Wiegner, Elisena IGP Sicilia 2012, Italy
Bottled one year ago, about to be released. A very pure nose, very clean and almost a note of spearmint to this, with that subtle floral and herby background, a nice weight on the palate, with good freshness, a long poised finish, with a lovely tight structure and hint of mineral salts. 88/100.

Wiegner, Elisena IGP Sicilia 2013, Italy
Tank sample, still to be bottled. A light smokiness, a touch of floral character here, with a real juiciness and freshness on the palate, much juicier but has that salty mineral finish again, that trace of bitter orange or grapefruit bite. 87-88/100.

Wiegner, Treterre Etna DOC 2010, Italy
Nerello Mascalese. From younger grapes, around seven years old. Delicate colour, with a touch of amber though a fairly deep core. Gorgeous coffee-touched, soft and truffly nose, with lots of cherry coming through, very Pinot-like in many ways. The palate has a cool fruit core, with a dry redcurrant fruit, those touches of briar and chestnutty dryness are lovely, there is so much spice, and a lovely tight tannin core, good acidity and length. Delicious. 89-90/100.

Wiegner, Treterre IGT Sicilia 2009, Italy
Lightly lighter colour again. This has a slightly cheesy, slightly bottle stinky, but that settles down, and onto the palate it has a juiciness, a dry cherry skin tang and bittersweetness. It has energy and finesse, the acidity is tight and focused, and the spice and coffee depth pushes through. Delicious wine. More bought-in grapes here, some of them pre-Phylloxera. 90-91/100.

Wiegner, Artemisio IGT Sicilia 2009, Italy
100% Cabernet Franc and 12.5% alcohol. Nice dark colour, with sappiness and touches of green olive and a smokiness too. There is plenty of lift and peppery character here, but the spices and the coffee is good, adding an extra ounce of depth. The palate has a nice baked earth note, a solid black fruit character too, and there is a gentle tannin filling in, touches of sweetness really holding on against good acidity. Very nice Cab Franc. 89/100.. Wiegner, Torquato Vino di Tavola 2008, Italy
100% Aglianico at 13% abv. Still a dark and dense colour, with mulberry, lots of oak and lots of creamy cassis. There is a creamy, smooth and elegant side to this, with a good juicy palate, a squirt if cherry juice and fresh raspberry fruitiness, gentle tannin and acid structure. Fairly straightforward, but delicious. 89/100.

Wiegner, Torquato Vino di Tavola 2009, Italy
Delightful cherry fresh nose, with a vibrant colour too, is immediately appealing. There’s a little herbal and cedary note, but it is really fresh and has that charming perfumed lift. The palate has freshness and lift, with a light green/sappy note, again herbal and with a blackcurrant and mint leaf note that is juicy and fresh, light-bodied and finishes with an ashy dryness. 88-89/100.

Wiegner is seeking UK distribution at time of writing. See stockists on wine-searcher

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