Etna Wines: a journey through the DOC-branded excellence

Etna wines: a journey through the DOC-branded excellence

Etna, in the collective imagination, is the ideal destination for hikers, trekking lovers or more generally for those who want to live an experience in direct contact with nature away from the chaos of the city. Etna has so much more to offer, an intriguing and tasty aspect that only true wine lovers or the curious can appreciate.


The particular sandy conformation of the soil formed by the disintegration of lava, and therefore rich in ash and mineral salts, has birthed an ancient tradition handed down from generation to generation, testified by old vineyards cultivated with the native vines of the territory. Even the poet Theocritus in the third century BC spoke of it in one of his idylls.


Etna was the first controlled designation of origin, a brand that identifies quality wines produced with grapes harvested in a specific area, to obtain recognition of the designation of origin, the Etna Doc. This was recognized with Presidential Decree of 11.08.1968 published in the Official Gazette of 25.09.1968.

The production area of ​​the designation of origin affects most of the municipalities that are located on the slopes of Mount Etna, including Linguaglossa, Trecastagni, Viagrande and Castiglione di Sicilia.


For the less experienced, an autochthonous vine is a special variety used to produce wine, cultivated and diffused in the same historical area of ​​origin of the vine itself and therefore not transplanted from other areas. Each indigenous grape variety has its own shape and color of the grape bunch, the grain and the leaves, giving the wine distinct organoleptic characteristics that make it unique.

Here are the main autochthonous vines of Etna.

Red grape vines

Nerello Mascalese: among the wines of Etna, it is the undisputed prince of the cultivated vines, as well as the most widespread. It has been cultivated between 350 and 1000 meters since time immemorial and has a round shape. The wine obtained from this variety has a ruby ​​red color with garnet hues and aromas of red berry fruit with spicy hints of tobacco and vanilla prevail among the aromas. It is a late ripening grape; the harvest takes place in mid-October.

Nerello Cappuccio: it is one of the most ancient vines and is grown between 350 and 900 meters above sea level. The shape of the bunch is very different from that of the Nerello Mascalese, in fact it has a small bunch and a “pinecone” shape. The wines obtained, with a bright ruby ​​red color, unlike Nerello Mascalese are not suitable for extreme aging. The perfume notes that characterize it range from wood extract, to vanilla but also to cherry. Nerello Cappuccio is also a late ripening grape.

White grape vines

Carricante: it is grown in the eastern and southern slopes of Etna at higher heights than the red berry vines (between 950 and 1500 meters high). The meaning of the name derives from the abundant production that this vine manages to give compared to other Etna wines. Among the elegant aromas you can smell orange blossom and fresh notes of white fruit, apple, citrus and nuances of anise.

Minnella: The assonance with the famous dialect word “minna”, or breast, is no accident. This white berried variety owes its etymology to the Sicilian term for the female breast, precisely because of the elongated shape of the bunch. Minnella grapes ripen between the second and third ten days of September, therefore earlier than the other native Etna vines. The color of the resulting wine is straw yellow while the aromas are intense and fruity with hints of anise.

Catarratto: although it is grown mainly in the Trapanese area, this grape also grows on the slopes of Etna, where it is harvested late compared to other areas. On the olfactory level, the scent of white flowers and white-fleshed fruit is the most common.

Etna Wines: Monte Gorna estate

If you feel like tasting the wines produced by these unique vines, on the south side of Etna, between the extinct craters Monte Gorna and Monte Ilice is the Tenuta Monte Gorna winery. Here the vineyards are planted with Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio to produce Etna Red and Carricante and Catarratto to produce Etna White. These vineyards have been cultivated for over ten years with organic farming methods and surrounded by powerful terraces of stone walls that represent the historical memory of an ancient rural landscape.

The wines produced on the farm are Etna Bianco DOC (Carricante 60% and Catarratto 40%), Etna Rosso DOC (Nerello Mascalese 80% and Nerello Cappuccio 20%) and Etna Rosso DOC in Barrique with a maturation time and a lower aging than Etna Rosso DOC.

We recommend that you visit the cellar with spectacular views of Etna and take part in the Etna wine tasting of these 3 distinct wines, followed by a lunch made with authentic local products.

A great way to get closer to the world of Etna wines and discover the qualities of this area.

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