6 days- 5 nights
As written by Megan Krigbaum on Food & Wine “Volcanic eruptions, wildly unpredictable weather, steep slopes: Mount Etna is an insane place to produce wine. But its winemakers have an intensity to match its extremes.”
Mt Etna is definitely one of the most exciting wine destination worldwide. No other wine region in Italy is as exciting as Mt. Etna right now.
In just a few years, the number of winemakers on the volcano has doubled. All the important Sicilian producers today are incomplete without an Etna component. That’s why the Mt. Etna wine road had to be part of our selection of wine trips.
Nerello Mascalese is the grape most prized in this area. It is late-ripening (harvested in mid-October) with large clusters, large berries, thin skins and is thought to have arrived from ancient Greece, brought to Italy along the same route followed by the mythical hero Odysseus.
Nerello Cappuccio is another important Etna variety and some experts believe it is genetically linked to Carignan. White wines are made primarily from indigenous Carricante and Catarratto. A growing number of producers are experimenting with international varieties.
This is a unique and exciting wine tour around Mt Etna region to discover its incredible wines, its outstanding vineyards, its modern old-style cellars, its enchanting territory, its impressive people.
Day 1: Etna wine resort, wine dinner at Firriato
Day 2: Benanti, Barone di Villagrande, Cottanera
Day 3: Planeta, Passopisciaro, wine dinner at restaurant with wine pairing
Day 4: Tenute di Fessina, I custody, wine dinner at restaurant with wine pairing
Day 5: Mt Etna excursion, Gambino winery, Taorrmina, farewell dinner at restaurant with wine pairing
ITINERARY & PROGRAM
Day 1 – Welcome to Sicily! Catania Airport – Etna wine resort
Arrive at Catania Airport, meet & greet with your assistant and private transfer to our wine resort on Mt Etna nestled on a series of terraces covering 11 hectares in one of the most intriguing areas of the volcano, contrada Verzella, where some of the most intriguing wines are produced. A typical manor house restored with colours and layout in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature offering with 11 rooms combining comfort with tradition, all enjoying a view over the vineyards. These vineyards are ancient, some more than a hundred years old, containing extraordinary plants, which are the expression of an aged-old vineyard producing the best fruit suited to the context of this singular land of excess.
Tonight welcome dinner is at Firriato: the tasting start with a fascinating metodo classic sparkling wine from Nerello Mascalese grapes picked before their natural ripening to continue with wines from the traditional ampelografic heritage of the area. (D)
Day 2 – Etna wine tour
Breakfast at the hotel. Departure for our first day exploring Etna wine visiting two of the pioneers for quality wine production at the foothill of the biggest active volcano in Europe.
Born at the end of 1800’s out of devotion and dedication of family generations, our first stop is Benanti winery whose vineyards are located on the northern, eastern and southern slopes of the volcano where the crus of their white and red wines come from. Here, where ancient fragrances and flavors are meticulously treasured, we focus on the Etna Renaissance and discover Carricante and Nerello Mascalese blends while walking along the vineyard and visiting an old palmento.
Oaks and chestnuts trees woods embrace our next stop: Barone di Villagrande, whose wine belongs to the most-refined aristocracy production. Immersed into a wide amphitheater of terraces and historical vineyards, we initiate a discussion of Etna Contrade and the diversity of wine styles. Enjoy a Sicilian style lunch with wine pairing.
Very close to our resort is Cottanera. On the 65 hectares of vineyards both autochthonous and international varieties are grown. The land is unique and gives rise to an extremely variable ampleographic picture. The Company’s autochthonous red wines are Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio, traditionally produced around Mt. Etna, alongside with the international Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Mondeuse. The white wines include, the autochthonous Inzolia and Carricante, and the international Viogner. The panoramic view of the vineyards is followed by the visit of the cellar and the barrels, dinner paired with 5 local wines. (B, L, D)
Day 3 – Etna wine tour
Breakfast at the hotel. Today we focus on exploring the concept of terroir.
We start from Planeta, one of the most outstanding wineries in Sicily, built on a long agricultural tradition handed down since 1500 through 17 generations originally in the area between Sambuca di Sicilia and Menfi. Nowadays, this winery owns six different wine estates all around Sicily, each wine with its specific traits in term of viticulture research and wine making. On Mt Etna this winery has identified three extraordinary sites for a total of 16 hectares and five different wines. This half-day visit leads us to a presentation of wines and project around the island with a full Sicilian lunch.
Next winery is Passopisciaro, the perfect place to focus on the concept of terroir. Covering a wide range of lands at Etna feet, it counts with six domains, different territory with different chemical composition allow the production to be diversified and peculiar for each estate. Contrada Chiappemacine lays between sandstone overhangs. With its vines’ roots having traces of limestone, it produces a full-mouthed perfectly balanced wine. Contrada Montedolce, meaning “sweet mountain”, is characterized by long vineyards fully exposed to sun, permitting the plantation of 2 hectares of Etna Chardonnay. Contrada Rampante is located more than 1000 meters a.s.l and due to the sandy terraces it produces the most aromatic and finest wine. Contrada Guardiola collects the most extensive variety: from ancient Nerello Mascalese vines, cultivated with the typical Sicilian system, to the younger both international and local vines.
In Contrada Sciaranuova the lava is incredibly soft, kneaded and friable, conferring an intense taste of fermented hay upon the final product.
In Contrada Porcaria the fragile and sharp lava incises the wine with changing aromas and an exotic corp.
Return at the hotel.
Dinner is at a nearby Osteria. In the shadow of Etna, this restaurant is the paradise for extreme winelovers. Here you will sip extremely rare labels, almost hard to find in the rest of Sicily and taste the wild mountain in the served dishes, prepared using seasonal fresh local products. (B, L, D)
Day 4 – Etna wine tour / Randazzo
Breakfast at the hotel. Today, our goal on Mt Etna is learning from peculiar wine projects on the foothill of the volcano.
Terre di Fessina throbbing heart beats at 670 meters above sea level. The vineyards-extending over about seven hectares-, are enclosed by two semicircular, centuries-old lava flows, which protect the vineyards and create a unique microenvironment, just like the walls enclosing the French “clos” do. Fessina shows up “Vertical” wines with marked acidity and a clear-cut aromatic profile. Winegrowing is done by hand, as in the Valtellina region and in the Moselle and Rhine valleys: the vineyards are terraced along steep hillsides which simply requires a “vine-conscious” winegrowing, to do and use only what the vine needs. Their eighteenth century Palmento, authentic heart of the estate, with the huge wine press in use until a decade ago, is a unique moment before lunch time on site.
I Custodi is our next stop. With its name meaning “guardians”, it perfectly expresses its mission. To guard means to preserve the territory, maintain traditions and respect people.
Protect and take care of thousands-year-old vines, cultivated in harmony with the surrounding environment by the traditional “Vigneri”, Etnean wise and expert wine dressers. Tour the vineyard and winery, examining a forward thinking winery using the ancient methods of production, stayed intact over the time.
Tonight dinner is in Randazzo, a nice small town located on the northern foot of the volcano still retaining its 13th century charme. Our restaurant is half between a cosy medieval tavern and an exclusive refined location, it is settled next to the monastery of Saint George. Handmade pasta and genuine seasoning are to taste the real flavor of Etna territory together with Etna wines. (B, L, D)
Day 5 – Mt Etna excursion / Taormina
Breakfast at the hotel. You cannot leave without a proper excursion on Mt Etna, unearthing the wildlife and the raw materials feeding the lands of wines.
Lunch stop at Gambino winery, a rustic style tasting paired with their DOP Etna wines.
Early evening departure to Taormina, named the pearl of Sicily, one of the Sicilian jewel. Situated on the slopes of Mount Tauro Taormina has remained charming, with much of its medieval character intact. The Greek Theatre dating from the 4th century B.C. hugs the edge of a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea with a stunning view over Mt Etna and the bay. Stroll along the main road Corso Umberto to admire several monument like Corvaja Mansion, Palazzo Duca di S. Stefano a masterpiece of Sicilian Gothic Art city residence of the Prince of Castel Mola.
Our farewell dinner is in Taormina at one of the top cosy restaurants in town, for a last immersion into Sicilian food and wines. (B, L, D)
Day 6 – Arrivederci!
Transport to Catania Airport to take your flight. Don’t miss the view from the plane and admire the giant volcano bidding you farewell until your next time in Sicily.
Meal legend: B (breakfast) L (lunch) D (dinner)
General info: “An eruption of wines – Mt Etna focus” is an escorted trip. It is available all year round on request. It is designed to create a good comfort and let participants enjoy the experience at best. Accommodation provided is first-class, strategically located. The food is always typically local, with a blend of regional delicacies and top wines. Transportation is top quality.
Your wine guide is qualified, pleasant and with a long experience in the wine sector.
Ben studied Viticulture, Enology, and Wine Theory with the University of California at Davis and hold a Diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. After working in the California wine business he moved in Sicily, settling on Mt Etna area.
Please, note that for organizational/logistical reasons we reserve the right to change daily schedule and wineries thus maintaining the high level profile of the tour.
Departures & Prices:
Check our scheduled departure dates and prices for 2017 OR ask for a custom-tailored departure
Flights: we generally recommend that our travellers to arrive one day before the trip starts in order to get their bearings and ease in to the new surroundings.
Travel Services: we would be happy to assist travellers in case of any further services: i.e. pre-post nights in Sicily, Amalfi Coast or Malta. Do not hesitate to ask for info.
Reservation & Payment: a deposit of 30% per person is required at the time of reservation. Final payment of the tour is due 60 days prior to departure.
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