The PDO wines
It is the main variety of Etna Rosso, Etna Rosso Riserva, Etna Rosato and Etna spumante wines.
Nerello Mascalese is the most widespread indigenous grape variety on the slopes of Mount Etna. Supposedly it originated in the Contea di Mascali: a vast territory which, starting with a Norman donation in the 12th century till the early 19th century, included part of the Acireale area, most of the eastern and north-eastern slopes of the volcano and even many plains in the Messina area. It is a difficult grape to grow and many compare it to Nebbiolo, because of its late ripening – in the second ten days of October – and to Pinot Noir, because of its sensitivity to local conditions. The plant has an erect carriage and wedge-shaped or pentagonal leaves with three or five lobes. The bunch has a long, averagely compact with very evident wings. The grapes have a thick skin and are light blue in colour. The wines made from Nerello Mascalese have a high alcohol content, high level of acidity, a slightly intense ruby colour, fruity hints of good and ethereal intensity, minerality, great finesse, medium structure, good balance and astringency.
It can be part of the blend of Etna PDO Rosso, Etna Rosso Riserva, Etna Rosato and Etna Spumante wines – always in blends where Nerello Mascalese is predominant.
Nerello Cappuccio owes its peculiar name to the cape-like shape that the leaves have to protect the fruits from intense sun and wind. For the same reason it is also called “Nerello Mantellato”. It has a large, one-piece, wedge- shaped leaf. The cluster of Nerello Cappuccio is of medium length, the grapes are spherical in shape and the skin is blue-black in colour. Its vegetative cycle is long, with a medium-late sprouting and harvesting period. Wines made from Nerello Cappuccio have a low alcohol content and good total acidity. Its ruby red colour is deeper than that of Nerello Mascalese, with violet nuances. The nose is marked with herbaceous and spicy scents but also floral and fruity ones, whereas at the palate it presents delicate tannins, freshness and medium structure.
Today it is increasingly vinified as a single variety and is always the main grape variety of Etna Bianco and Etna Bianco Superiore.
Carricante is an ancient white grape variety that has always been grown on the slopes of the volcano. Its name derives from the Sicilian expression “u carricanti”, which underlines the abundant production of its plants, capable of filling wagons with grapes. It is traditionally trained in the albarello style – as a bush vine – in mineral-rich volcanic sandy soil. Its terroir of choice is the splendid landscape of the eastern slope of Mount Etna, which descends from the summit of the volcano towards the sea. The cool climate and considerable temperature differences between day and night help to give the grapes fine and delicate aromas as well as scents. In the past Carricante, before it became clear that it can “go solo”, was vinified for a long time with other varieties grown on the Mount Etna, such as Catarratto, Minnella Bianca and Inzolia. Carricante has a medium-sized leaf and a cylindrical or conical bunch. The grapes are medium-sized with a greenish-yellow skin colour. Harvesting is medium late, between the end of September and the beginning of October. The pure wine is straw yellow in colour with green to deep yellow highlights. The bouquet is very complex and fine, characterised by intense hints of citrus flowers and white pulp fruit. On the palate, the wine has an exceptional minerality, with good aromatic persistence.
Although its popularity on the volcano is declining, it is allowed in Etna Bianco, Etna Bianco Superiore wines – in blends where Carricante is always predominant.
Catarratto is an ancient grape variety indigenous to Sicily, appreciated as much for its character as for its productivity. The variety is also widespread in western Sicily, where it is used in the production of renowned PDO wines. Today, we tend to distinguish the Catarratto variety according to its clones, which are actually quite different from each other. The two main and most widespread are the Catarratto Bianco Comune and the Catarratto Bianco Lucido. At its best, it carries aromas of citrus and herbs, structure, freshness and a pleasant mineral aftertaste.