Mt. Etna's history with the indigenous Carricante variety is a long and storied one. Many have sought to express this distinct terroir from the eastern slope of the volcano, but one family is most synonymous with the greatest heights it has achieved. Etna doesn't have a classification system to rank estates or vineyards like Bordeaux and Burgundy, but if there was one Grand Cru white from these volcanic slopes perched over the Mediterranean it would be Benanti's Pietramarina from Milo. Sourced from 80-year-old vines it showcases Carricante at its most structured and age-worthy.
The late 1800's was the inception of Benanti's viticulture on Mt. Etna. But, it was truly in 1988 that the estate began to garner the worthy fame that slowly spread throughout Sicly and abroad. It was Giuseppe Benanti who re-examined and questioned every aspect of viticulture and winemaking. He re-thought conventional wisdom on clones and their compatibility within each distinct parcel. And he knew that in order for his wines to transform slowly in bottle winemaking and aging would have to be held to much more rigorous standards than were acceptable to his contemporaries.
Pietramarina is Carricante's most profound bottling on Etna. While salinity is a hallmark of the grape from these sea breeze parcels grown on sandly volcanic soil, the defining element here is a tightly wrapped core of citrus, orange peel, and almond. There's a frame and touch of austerity to Pietramarina that shows a discipline worlds apart from the more oxidative and plush style of wine commonly found in Milo. In the end, it's the vein of minerality and and grip that appropriately put this benchmark bottling on the table with top Chablis and Burgundy.
Stainless steel aging and modest alcohol of 12.5% are crucial elements in keeping this southernly white so fresh and crisp. But, make no mistake: it's these same qualities that give Pietramarina its backbone to age in your cellar for many years to come. 2013 has been a great success for the whites on Etna and no bottling deserves more attention today than this brand new release from Benanti.
2013 Benanti Pietra Marina Bianco Superiore
$59 per bottle.