Mount Etna-Growing Wines on a Volcano

Mount Etna, also called Mongibello (from the Latin word mons and the Arabian word gebel) is a 10,920 foot high, active volcano in Northeastern Sicily.

While the wine growing region on Mount Etna (Mount Etna DOC), is relatively small and accounts for only about 5% of Sicily’s wine production, this region was the first DOC established in Sicily (in 1968) and is considered by many to be the most prestigious wine growing region in Sicily. This area also boasts a long history of winemaking-dating all the way back to the Roman Empire (during whose reign the wines from Mount Etna were renowned). 

So what is it that makes this region, and the terroir in its high altitude vineyards so unique?

Beyond the high altitude (Mount Etna is the highest volcano in Europe), which has an effect on the development of sugars and aromas in the ripened grapes, vines grown in this somewhat extreme environment, also enjoy mineral rich volcanic soils and face more unstable climate conditions. These factors contribute to unpredictable ripening periods that sometimes extend as much as two or more months beyond ripening periods in other areas of Sicily. 

As a part of the landscape, Mount Etna looms large, overlooking (and casting shade upon) the entire region. Life is different in the communities in and around this magnanimous volcanic mountain (that feels like an island within an island), than in bustling Sicilian cities such as nearby Catania. Life is more tranquil and centered around nature and farming.  

As Francesco puts it, 'Mount Etna puts the man closer to Nature and work. There are fewer distractions here.' 

Have you visited this region in Sicily? How many wines from Mount Etna have you tasted? 

In our Gambino Mount Etna vineyards, we grow the grapes that are most traditionally farmed here on the slopes of the volcano: nerello mascalese, nerello cappuccio, catarratto, and carricante. These indigenous Sicilian grapes benefit from the cooler temperatures, mineral rich volcanic soils, and high elevation which contribute to our wines’ structure, acidity, and depth.

Here are the wines that we make with our Mount Etna vineyards’ grapes:

Spumante Metodo Classico

This Reserve spumante wine is made from Etna grown nerello mascalese, farmed in some of our lowest yielding vineyards (lower yields = less wine per hectare/acre but also a higher concentration of flavors). 

Tifeo Bianco

A fresh, aromatic, unoaked white blend of carricante and cataratto.

Tifeo Rosato

An elegant Rosé of nerello mascalese

Tifeo Rosso

A full bodied red blend of nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio, aged in oak barrels for one year. 

Petto Dragone

A complex, full bodied yet elegant wine made with fruit from 40+ year old nerello mascalese vines