Etna: Pure excitement
While the spectacular eruption transfixes the world, Passopisciaro remembers its first vintage 20 years ago
The last two weeks put the spotlight on the world’s most active volcano: Etna.
The pyrotechnics included erupting fountains of lava that surged to 1,000 metres above the upper crater and incandescent flows that held the world media spellbound.
In this unique, always-restless environment, continuously providing intense excitement, grow some of Italy’s most prized vineyards. Passopisciaro, Etna’s iconic wine estate on its north slope, has for 20 years served as a benchmark for the area’s wine production. For it was here, exactly two decades ago, that the first harvest of the all-Nerello Mascalese Passorosso (than called Passopisciaro) arrived in the cellar and launched the local winemaking renaissance—thanks to Andrea Franchetti, the visionary who firmly believed in the quality of this volcanic earth and promoted the concept of Contrade wines, cru wines whose world-class quality he clearly foresaw.
Today, Passopisciaro produces five red Contrada wines: Rampante, Chiappemacine, Porcaria, Guardiola, and Sciaranuova, all ready to be released with the new 2019 vintage in June, while Passorosso, whose 2019 is scheduled for September, is a blend of all five, the quintessence of Franchetti’s style and a subtly-woven tapestry of these vineyards lying at up to 1,000 metres. The Chardonnay-based whites are Passobianco and the knife-edged Contrada PC, introduced two years ago, grown in a small sand-rich parcel at the highest part of the estate.
The Estate. Passopisciaro practices a precision viticulture obsessively respectful of nature, relying on 26 hectares of vineyards distributed over the north flank of Etna; most are planted to Nerello Mascalese, often un-grafted vines 80-100 years old, but there are Petit Verdot, Cesanese di Affile, and Chardonnay as well. In addition to Passorosso, Passobianco and the contrada crus, Passopisciaro’s portfolio boasts the prestigious Franchetti cuvée, composed of Petit Verdot and Cesanese d’Affile.
Andrea Franchetti also owns Tenuta di Trinoro, in Sarteano in Tuscany’s magnificent Val d’Orcia, famous for its legendary Bordeaux blend named after the estate.