Tenuta delle Terre Nere
Tenuta delle Terre Nerre, or the “Estate of the Black Earth”, says it all – this is Etna! Marco de Grazia was a consultant and exporter of Italian wine (co-inventor of the Barolo Boys), but after a life on the road he decided to settle and transform something he had always been curious about into a reality; making his own wine. He chose Mount Etna, on the east coast of the island of Sicily. This area had become rather neglected following WW2 but this stimulated Marco who, recognising the potential of these ancient forgotten vineyards, saw it as a challenge and took up the baton becoming one of the first to pioneer this spectacular region. The climate here on the slopes of the active volcano is extreme, with drastic diurnal variations, varying altitudes, aspects from full south to full north and everything in-between, which creates myriad microclimatic differences. The soils are unique - to call them rocky is an understatement! These volcanic soils have been formed by 500,000 years of lava flows, each flow contributing another different mineral vein, resulting in a complex matrix of soils that can be different just a few hundred meters apart form each other, similar to Burgundy. In fact when Marco launched his first wines in 2002 he defined them on the back labels with some audacity, as the “Burgundy of the Mediterranean”, and presented them in the sloping shouldered Burgundy bottles. His point, however, was to try to define Etna; something he is passionate about and a driving force to bring the wines of Etna to the attention of the world. 45 hectares are under vine farmed organically (certification in 2010) in 29 different plots, in nine crus. Seven are planted on the northern side of Etna (Caldera Scottana, San Lorenzo, Bocc d'Orzo, Guardiola, Santo Spirito, Moganazzi and Feudo di Mezzo), one on the eastern side (Contrada Salice) and one on the southern side (Biancavilla in the subzone of Montalto). The vineyards are planted at between 600 and 1000 metres above sea level - Guardiola has the highest altitude red grape vineyards in Europe! With the exception of 7 hectares which were planted recently, the vines are between 50 and 100 years old with one ungrafted pre-phylloxera plot less than one hectare in size which has reached the venerable age of 140 years. Marco champions the indigenous grape varieties of Etna and cultivates the white, Carricante, Catarratto, Inzolia, Grechanico and Minnella, and the red Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. A minimalist Burgundian approach is taken in the cellar: the grapes for the different cru are vinified separately to preserve the purity and multifaceted character of Etna. Native yeasts are used for spontaneous fermentation, and ageing is carried out in French oak barrels, 25% new. Marco was the first producer to bottle single parcel Nerellos, and these have become a benchmark for Etna wines. Tenuta delle Terre Nere's wines are astounding and astonishingly complex, crafted with passion from the Black Earth of Etna!