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Themes:     Super & Duper (43)  
Tags:    Travelling     Wine
Daniel Verdorfer Friday, 30 August 2013

Etna Rosso, droplets of lava!

A normal day in Corvara, 21st February, as I turned on the computer at 10 a.m. and started to reply to the e-mails which had come in. Like always.
Loads of new e-mails: the last one came from a 'Tenute di Trinoro’.
'Andrea Franchetti has the pleasure of inviting you to sixth edition of the 'Contrade dell'Etna' on 15th April in Passopisciario.'
Etna Rosso, droplets of lava!
‘We were fascinated by the bizarre landscape. The sea, the hilly area, the black, volcanic earth from which the 'alberello' vine sprouts and the smoky chimney which is Mount Etna.’
'Great’, I said to myself. 'I have never been on a volcano, with flowers in full bloom during mid-April, and wines from Etna are sublime.' How can a wine lover even consider not following up on such an invitation? Meeting all producers during an event held on Mount Etna is quite the rarest of occasions.
At long last 14th April had arrived and we set off to Linguaglossa. Yes, we, as the two 'super nose' tasters from our Hotel, mErCh and Manuel, were coming with me. Who else was supposed to help me out with all the wine tasting?
We left the wintry, snowy Dolomites behind us and, on the same day, we were welcomed on the island by the scent of blooming orange flowers.
We were fascinated by the bizarre landscape. The sea, the hilly area, the black, volcanic earth from which the 'alberello' vine sprouts (shrub-like vines that grow without trellises ) and the smoky chimney which is Mount Etna.
After an Italian aperitif in the old city centre of Taormina, we headed to our lodgings and had an early night. We hadn't come here to play, after all.
After a restful sleep we had breakfast on the terrace with a view over Mount Etna: an unusual occurrence for us during this period of the year. After a too sweet breakfast, for us mountain dwellers at least, we headed to Linguaglossa to the 'Contrada Guardiola’. This vineyard is located just slightly below 1000mt a.s.l. Before we commenced with the tasting, we had a walk on the vineyard of 'Tenuta di Passopisciaro’. Grand, a mix of rock, sand, clay and black, flat vulcanic rock. An absurd contrast even to the eye, made of green and black: a black surface from which grasses, ferns, bushes and even vines, Guyot and 'alberelli', grew.
10.30. Time to start, so we went and armed ourselves with wine chalices. The tasting session ran in two different buildings. The smaller room hosted wine-growers from the southern side of Mount Etna (versante sud), while the larger room hosted producers growing vines on the northern side (versante nord) of the volcano, amongst which our hosts, Passopisciaro.
We started our tasting session with the 'Etna Bianco’ white wine.
It's a white wine which is predominantly produced with the 'carricante' variety, together with other local varieties. As the main attraction was the 'Etna Rosso’, we finished the white wines and moved on. Not that many wine-growers produce white wines, or they have cleared their land to replace it with 'nerello mascalese'. Nerello, a red wine grape, is the most cultivated type of grape in Sicily, after Nero d'Avola. These late-ripening grapes are used in the Etna region to produce an unmixed, balanced and rich in tannin red wine, which reminds us of noble red wines from Burgundy.
After diligent sniffing, sipping and spitting, 2 p.m. had come upon us and the tasting session was halfway through. We unanimously decided to go and eat something. A change of scene, after a quick car ride, passing by congealed lava, took us to the 'Trattoria Quota Alta’. We started with a strengthening starter menu, followed by 'pasta with pistachio’ and 'marsala scaloppini’. With renewed energy, we went back to Contrada Guardiola. After all, we had to plunge our noses a bit more into our chalices, and analyse further wines which had yet to reach our glasses. During the afternoon we tasted the remaining wines, one or two wine growers headed home, and the noise grew louder and louder: 100 decibel, that's how loud it sounded to us. At 6 p.m. the day had come to an end.
Conclusion: great location, absurd landscape, a number of great wines, an unforgettable journey. A ranking of wines will, however, not be included in this blog post. Those wines which convinced us the most can be found on our wine menu in the near future. So, let's toast to that!

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