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 surely be Benanti's Pietra Marina.
Sourced from 80-year-old vines, Pietra Marina showcases Carricante at its most structured and age-worthy. While salinity is a hallmark of this grape variety, the defining element here is a tightly wrapped core of citrus, orange peel, and almond. There's a frame and touch of austerity to Pietra Marina 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 grip that appropriately put this benchmark bottling on the table with top Chablis and Burgundy.
Benanti's story began in the 1800s, but it was in 1988 that the estate began to garner fame. Giuseppe re-examined and questioned every aspect of Benanti's viticulture and winemaking, challenging conventional wisdom on clones and their compatibility in each parcel. Aging in stainless steel is a crucial element in keeping this southerly white wine so fresh and crisp. But make no mistake—it's these same qualities that give Pietra Marina its backbone to age in your cellar for many years to come.
“I make my wine like Bartolo Mascarello!” That's what Massimiliano Calabretta told his U.S. importer when they first visited his estate in Sicily. The family's formula is simple: To work with old-vine and own-rooted parcels preserved as long as possible through organic farming. Their historic practices have stood the test of time as the world around them rapidly changed. The wines at Calebretta are entrenched in tradition, just as Bartolo Mascarello would have approved.
Nerello Cappuccio is often considered a blending grape (mainly because of its viticulture difficulty and susceptibility to disease than any varietal shortcoming). Calabretta saw his old, ungrafted vines offered a very different expression of the variety, with an aromatic lift that stood apart from his counterparts: Dark red fruits, smoke, lavender, violets, and a saline-infused finish that has made reaching for this wine habitual.
Nerello Mascalese is the primary red variety on Mt. Etna. The vines for Calabretta's old-vine cuvée, Vigne Vecchie, start at 60 years old and go well over 100 years, many of which are un-grafted. Aging takes place in 50-70 hectoliter Slavonian casks for up to 42 months. This protocol draws parallels to traditional Barolo producers, but the similarities go beyond aging formats.