The history of Etna began with a long and amazing series of geological incidents spanning some 500-700 millennia – incidents which created the entire region and Europe’s highest active volcano. Over the centuries, it has erupted on several occasions and thrown up enormous quantities of lava. And, again over the centuries, man has tenaciously superimposed on the lavic landscape an agrarian landscape which is one of the richest on the island, composed of vineyards, citrus groves and orchards, as well as numerous urban settlements spread across the valleys and hills all of which are imbued with genuine traditions, legends and centuries-old symbols. On Etna, vines grown by the alberello system, perched across the whole mountain with the help of terraces of black lavic stone, have for centuries now found their ideal environment. The Etna area represents a very particular microclimate which is unique even within the island itself (basically a sort of island within an island) and is perhaps not found anywhere else in the world, where the vine has been cultivated forever and the wine produced known and appreciated since the days of antiquity. Mythology, literature, legends and popular traditions have, since those very remote days, given rise to what is the “wine culture” of the Etna area.
The vine on Etna has always been cultivated ad alberello, 8-9,000 vines per hectare, on terraces made of dried lavic stone. In these conditions, the vines, supported by a stake made out of chestnut wood, have to be tended by hand, using only very delicate non-invasive farming devices (mechanical hoes). This is a very old method of cultivation which respects the natural balance of the environment on Etna. The climate in the vineyard areas of Etna is characterised by notable variations in temperature between day and night (even as much as 20°). The volcanic, sandy soil is formed by the disintegration of the lava. This changes continuously, becoming deep and fertile at certain points or quite shallow with pieces of volcanic rock at others. The vines sink their roots down into very different types of soil made up of the many layers of lava which have built up over the millennia. Thus the range of macro elements, but even more so microelements, available is very wide indeed. The one constant in the old vineyards is a high level of biodiversity.
The cultivation of our vines is carried out by a group of people who are highly specialised in the art of growing vines by the alberello system, all drawn from the indigenous population of Etna – known as I Vigneri (www.ivigneri.it). Their cultivation techniques are based on the use of non-invasive tools and systems to preserve tradition wherever possible. The spirit of their labour is the pleasure of working in full harmony with the landscape – the environment, nature, Etna, the volcano of which they feel a true part and in no way superior to it. The wish is for the wines produced to be the truest and most genuine expression of the territory and culture which is Etna. Our vines represent our land and everything in it. As in all populations, they represent all the stages in the life of man with all the cultural and social expressions which together form a civilisation. It is the same with our vines – young growths flourish alongside those that are not so young and even some that are old, resulting in a wide range of grape varieties and clones. Every vine brings its own special characteristic and together they play their part in creating a typical and unique wine.