In February 2018 I visited Sicily with two friends where we met a number of vignerons all of whom were producing an incredibly authentic Etna wine from various contrada (plots) dotted around the North and Northeast of Etna. Different to the rest of Sicily, and different to what New Zealand has seen of Etna so far, are the wines from Davide Bentivegna from Etnella. Gratuitous bragging here, but in my mind there are just four legit producers on Etna, and I will introduce NZ slowly to three of those four.
Davide runs a tiny agriturismo on Etna, which is to say he runs a full working farm, complete with vines, cattle, fruit trees, nuts, olives and a small b&b on it too. Since taking over the land in 2008 he has been farming biodynamically, and slowly adding more and more parcels to his estate, but only as much as one man can maintain.
Davide's plots range from 6-900m AMSL in elevation, all are planted 'alberello', that is they are individually staked bush vines which require all work to be done by hand, the vineyards are steep and terraced, meaning access is only possible by foot.
All vineyards are close-planted on rich volcanic soils at around 10,000 vines per hectare, all are farmed biodynamically and all his wines are true reflections of site, with elevation and exposition being the most obvious variables between each site. It's interesting to note that the average diurnal variation in temperature on Etna is 16 degrees from day to night, which is a massive contributing factor to Etna wines being so incredibly unique to anything else the world.
The wines are powerful but light, rich but fresh. I would liken them to high altitude wines from the middle of a warm Mediterranean climate. They have an intense power to them that you only see from volcanic soils, but with an incredible finesse, subtlety and nuance to them too. These wines are instantly recognisable and forever memorable.
As far as winemaking style Davide shies away from extraction, temperature control or the use of new oak (something NZ hasn't seen this yet), and often points back to tradition, always vinifying his wines as whole bunches, using only wild-fermentation and often using traditional concrete tanks and Sicilian chestnut wood. The wines are always unfiltered and unfined, and where permitting, without any added SO2 either. Simply said, these wines are pure and they are true. We even have Notti Stellate, Davide's top wine from 150-160 year old pre-phylloxera vines!
It's taken us till now to receive an allocation of just one pallet, which was spread thin between eight wines and some olive oil. I landed the wines a few weeks ago now, have given them time to rest, have tasted each and every cuvée and am happy to offer them to you now as beautiful wines of Etna in perfect condition to drink now.