“Volcanoes are gloomy places, and when I arrived, Mt. Etna was even gloomier because it was an abandoned volcano. Wineries lay collapsed all over its slopes; stonewalled terraces disappeared everywhere up the mountain in the bushes. There was the misery of blackened streets and ashen churches in large old towns. These were the feelings I had in the winter of 2000 when I first came to Etna. It seemed crazy to restore vineyards so high up the mountain – above, it was erupting – but I liked that they were planted so high.

At the top of the steep Passopisciaro property looms a hump of black gravel. It’s where the lava spill from a big eruption in 1947 had stopped, caking up just before it could submerge whole terraces below it, vines, walls, and buildings: on Etna you can lose it all.

Here, it’s always very cold at night, even in August. During the day in the vineyards the lava powder penetrates in the skin and you get intoxicated, tired. The first wine I made was pale and meager, and I was discouraged. I planted other grapes; whatever is planted there the wine always tastes of citrus and camphor, without that generous body that you like earth to lend right away to a wine.

There’s no mold, no moss; the ground sparkles black like the night; the wine slowly becomes very elegant and strange. During the day a soft light penetrates everything and then there are starry nights; Etna has enormous poetry. Making wine, you have access to it. There isn’t Mother Nature here. You are conducting your viticulture on stuff that comes out of the terrible below.”

– Andrea Franchetti