Mount Etna’s White Wines

Lesson
Materials

CLASS NOTES

Mount Etna’s white wines have a reputation for having great flavor and fresh acidity. For more than a decade, critics and journalists have placed Etna’s white wines with the finest wines in the world.

White wines from vineyards on the volcano can be labelled DOC/DOP Etna Bianco, DOC/DOP Sicilia, IGT/IGP Terre Siciliane, or they may be categorized as a Vino Bianco, which limits the terms that can be used on a label.

ETNA DOC VARIETIES

The following grapes are used for white wines destined for the quality categories Etna Bianco and Etna Bianco Superiore:

  • Carricante (kar-ree-kahn-tay)
  • Catarratto Bianco (kot-tar-ah-tohbe-on-koh)
  • Minella Bianca (me-nel-lah • be-on-kah)
  • Small quantities of non-aromatic Sicilian varieties are also permitted

ETNA DOC WINES: ETNA BIANCO & ETNA BIANCO SUPERIORE

The two white wines permitted within the Etna DOC regulations are based on Carricante. While Etna Bianco can be made anywhere within the delimited borders of the Etna DOC, Etna Bianco Superiore can only be produced from vineyards growing in and around the town of Milo.

ETNA BIANCO DOC

The most common white wine produced on Mount Etna is Etna Bianco. It is a wine composed of 60% Carricante (minimum) and up to 40% Catarratto Bianco with non-aromatic Sicilian varieties. The resulting wines can be pale green-yellow to golden with austere aromas and flavors that improve with age.

ETNA BIANCO SUPERIORE DOC

This special white wine comes from vineyards that are planted in the town and contrade of Milo, high on the volcano’s eastern slope. The approved blend mandates that Carricante must account for at least 80% of the blend. While Catarratto Bianco and Minella Bianca and non-aromatic Sicilian varieties can make up the rest of the blend, many winemakers are opting to make wines from 100% Carricante. the finished wine is bright lime-yellow with golden hues, a fresh acidity, and a savory brackish flavor.

OTHER WHITE WINES

White wines from Mount Etna do not have to adhere to Etna DOC regulations. In some cases, they can’t use the Etna name because the wine is made with Chardonnay or Fiano, for example. In others, the winery chooses to label them under a different scheme (DOC Sicilia or IGT Terre Siciliane for example) because they don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy required to use the name Etna, or their Carricante vineyard is located outside of the Etna DOC appellation. There can be a number of reasons why one wine is an Etna Bianco or Etna Bianco Superiore and another wine is not.

IN THE VINEYARD

White grapes on Mount Etna are managed by hand and trained in alberello, cordon, and guyot.

THE CELLAR

At harvest, the grapes are removed from the vine by hand and carried to the winery in small crates. Winemakers press the grapes to remove the juice and ferment the juice until there is little or no sugar remaining in the new wine. Aging the wine takes place in stainless steel, wood, and other containers. The wine is typically bottled before the next harvest, but some producers choose to age their wines for longer.

DESCRIPTION: In this lesson we discuss what's happened on Mount Etna over the past few decades.

MATERIALS: Video + Short Lecture

SUGGESTED TASTING: Etna Bianco & Etna Bianco Superiore

REQUIRED READING:

  • Class Notes, on Lesson Page
  • The New Wines of Mount Etna: Section – White Wines, Pg. 40 – 45