Mount Etna’s Sparkling Wines

Lesson
Materials

CLASS NOTES

While only a handful of wineries produce this labor-intensive and delicious wine, the results have inspired a generation of others to try. Sparkling wines made from vineyards on the volcano can be labelled DOC/DOP Etna Spumante, DOC/DOP Sicilia Spumante, IGT/IGP Terre Siciliane, or they may be categorized as a Vino Frizzante. How a sparkling wine is labelled can give you hints as to how they are produced. In other words, wineries have choices when it comes to the sparkling wines they make.

ETNA DOC VARIETIES

The following grapes are used to make Etna Spumante:

  • Nerello Mascalese (nayr-rehl-low • mah-ska-lay-zay)
  • And non-aromatic Sicilian grape varieties.

ETNA DOC WINE: ETNA SPUMANTE

The true sparkling wines of Mount Etna are vintage metodo classico (classic method). This means that the wines are produced from a single year, using a unique method of production that has been approved after years of research. The Etna DOC rules mandate a recipe of 60% Nerello Mascalese (minimum), but the wines must be white or rosé in color. The wines cannot be red, but Etna Spumante can be made within the delimited borders of the Etna DOC. Etna Spumante features pale greenish-yellow to rose petal colors and aromas and flavors of tree and forest fruits on the nose and palate. Etna’s Spumante wines can accompany a range of foods.

OTHER SPARKLING WINES

Sparkling wines from Mount Etna do not always follow the Etna DOC protocols. Some wineries choose to use other varieties, like Carricante or Chardonnay to make effervescent wines. They may also choose to make the wine using the charmat method (tank method) which produces a wine with bubbles but not at the same level of quality. These sparkling wines cannot use the Etna name on the label. They must choose DOC Sicilia Spumante, IGT Terre Siciliane Spumante, or simply Vino Frizzante.

IN THE VINEYARD

Wine grapes are managed by hand. Vines are trained in alberello, cordon, and guyot.

THE CELLAR

At harvest, grape clusters are removed from the vine by hand and carried to the winery in small crates. Winemakers press the grapes to remove the juice from the grapes. If the grapes are allocated for a white sparkling wine, the pressing will be quick. If the base wine is dedicated for a rosé wine, the pressing is slower so that some pigment from the black grapes colors the juice. Once the skins and juice are separated, the juice is fermented until there is little or no sugar remaining in the base wine.

For Etna Spumante, the base wine receives a liqueur di tirage and the wine is bottled. The second fermentation takes place inside the bottle. After aging for some time, any sediment is removed from the wine during riddling and sboccatura (disgorgement), and a cork and cage are added to close the wine. Vintage classic method wines are more expensive and have the ability for extended aging in the bottle.

Simple sparkling wines follow a similar path for all stages, except the second fermentation takes place in a closed tank, which replicates bottle fermentation in the classic method, but with far less finesse in the final product. These wines are less expensive and are not capable of aging.

DESCRIPTION: In this lesson we discuss the sparkling wines of Mount Etna.

MATERIALS: Video + Short Lecture

SUGGESTED TASTING: Etna Spumante

REQUIRED READING:

  • Class Notes, on Lesson Page
  • The New Wines of Mount Etna: Section – Sparkling Wines, Pg. 57 - 61