Sicilian producer delves deeper into Etna wines
Duca di Salaparuta, Sicily’s largest private winery, continues its exploration of volcanic soils on the slopes of Mt. Etna with the release of two new wines.
In time for its bicentenary in a couple of years, Duca di Salaparuta has released its first pair of Etna DOC wines from its Tenuta Vajasindi estate in Castiglione di Sicilia on the northern slopes of the famous volcano. Lavico Etna Rosso 2020, is a purebred Nerello Mascalese, and Lavico Etna Bianco 2021 is produced from the region’s top white grape – Carricante.
As the largest private winery in Sicily, and one of the oldest – founded by Giuseppe Alliata in 1824, Duca di Salaparuta was naturally drawn to producing wine on Etna and in 2003 acquired the beautifully-positioned Vajasindi estate. The vines for Lavico cover ten hectares on two separate terraces enclosed by a dry-stone wall.
Roberto Magnisi, head of Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo and Florio in Sicily invites you to join him on a journey to Tenuta Vajasindi. “Close your eyes and let yourself be carried away among yellow flowers, vineyards and a fertile, volcanic soil,” he says. “We are 700m above sea level, and you can easily make out the summit of Mount Etna, Europe’s highest, active volcano.”
Volcanic ash, sand and small grains of pumice form a soft, brown soil that drains well. It is also rich in iron, copper, phosphorous and magnesium, giving some real mineral complexity to the wines. Years were spent planting experimental plots to match the right clones of the right grapes to this unique terroir.
As well as the local varieties of Nerello Mascalese and Carricante, Duca di Salaparuta embarked on a long-term project to explore Pinot Noir’s affinity with Etna and respond to a challenge set by one of Italy’s greatest winemakers, the late Giacomo Tachis. This led to the release of Duca Nero, a sparkling Blanc de Noirs, and Nawàri, now one of the company’s most iconic wines.
“Pure, authentic, passionate … these are the adjectives I like to use to describe our wines, the liquid expression of this magical terrain created by nature, man and our own personal vision,” says Magnisi. And at the forefront of that vision is caring for the environment, as he explains: “We are fully committed to a path of cultural and economic sustainability for the Etna DOC, so much so that we have never stopped investing in it.”
Patrick Schmitt MW provides his tasting notes for Duca di Salaparuta’s new Etna wines below:
Lavico Etna Bianco DOC 2021
“Reminiscent of fine, dry, cool-climate Riesling, Etna’s great white grape Carricante yields wines with wonderful purity and freshness that delight in their youthful state but could be aged for many years to deliver softer, honeyed notes. This pristine example from the 2021 harvest is light and crisp but intensely flavoured, with a core of peach and pear, then zesty lemon, green apple and rock salt on the finish to make your mouth water, and your body crave another sip.”
Lavico Etna Rosso DOC 2020
“A pale ruby with a light mouth-feel, this Etna Rosso exemplifies the elegant nature of wines from the wind-swept slopes of Sicily’s famous volcano, which rises so prominently from the surrounding sea. There’s red cherry fruit, a touch of crushed strawberry, then some ripe apple and fine-grained tannins to provide a fresh and dry finish to this delicate red, that cleanses the palate a little like rosé, making it a joy to drink with a range of lighter foods, including fish-based dishes.”