The Wines of Mt. Etna in Sicily: Wine's Next Big Thing?

Last month we explored the wines of Mt. Vesuvius in Campania. This article will explore the wines from Italy’s other famous volcano, Mt. Etna. Mt. Etna is in the eastern portion of Sicily. It is the highest active volcano in Sicily at just under 11,000 feet often capped with snow. It is a beautiful place and mystical setting.

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Sicily is at the crossroads of the Mediterranean. Thru the centuries, many cultures have moved thru Sicily, stayed for a time, melded into the local culture, only to be replaced by the next group. Thus, Sicily has shown a remarkable tendency to adapt and change. More so than the rest of Italy, Sicily has developed the ability to absorb other cultures into its own ever-changing culture. That tendency is also evident in many of the wines produced there today. In Sicily, you can find many of the worlds most stylish varietals being made in modern methods and being made quite well. There are quality Chardonnay, Syrahs and other international varietals being made there. Yet, for all that, there are also the traditionalists in Sicily who have gone back to native varietals and are making fantastic wines that the world is just now discovering.

Historically, however, the wines of Sicily have, for the most part, never lived up to the beauty of their surroundings. Mt. Etna is in the province of Catania. The area has been farmed since ancient time. The Greeks conquered the area in 729 BC setting up outposts for trade. Shortly thereafter, they planted grapes and made wine. The poet Theocritus wrote about the vineyards on the slopes of Mt. Etna in the 3rd century BC. However, the viniculture there ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries. The wines were competent and drinkable for local consumption. In the twentieth century, a combination of wars and poverty kept the area from investing in winemaking for most of the century. As the rest of Italy was having a wine renaissance in the 1970’s, the wines of Mt. Etna remained mostly unaffected.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.