“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

“Snow has fallen two thirds down the mountain. The wines have darkened fast. They are also low in sugars. Each year carries wine that we have never seen before, their makings not in the year’s weather.

First, one is surprised by the grapes’ way of ripening on the vine. When grapes have been fermenting for three for three on four days, you begin to see the style of the wine just in time to help it along. 

The character of this vintage will be similar across every territory of Italy: wines of 2016 will be smooth because the grapes were ripe; they will be gentle, because taste and color are coming away from the grapes effortlessly. We don’t need to push and squeeze in the tank.”

– Andrea Franchetti