For at least three millennia it is possible to find on Etna traces of a highly specialized model of viticulture; it is therefore not surprising that until a few years ago they existed in the historical Palmenti (small cellars where the vinification takes place only thanks to sweat and manual work) some presses similar to those described by Cato already in 160 BC. This relationship between a’ Muntagna (as Etna is called by the Sicilians) and the winegrowers has remained constant over the centuries, so much so that in 1435 in Catania was founded the Maestranza dei Vigneri; a corporation in which the old generations handed down to the new the traditional wine making techniques of those lands. Still, in the nineteenth century, Etna was the undisputed capital of Sicilian wine, with specialized farmers who collect grapes at 1000 meters of altitude to make wines that, from the port of Riposto were shipped throughout Europe and around the world.
This glorious past seriously ran the risk of extinction because of the industrialization of post-war Italy that had created an important migratory phenomenon, subtracting arms and minds to those lands, also harassed by a tax system that made disadvantageous the work in the fields. This situation has changed thanks to the decisive intervention of a young wine maker, Salvo Foti, who gathered around himself a group of winemakers, uniting them under a new association that took the name of Vigneri. Among the members of this consortium there is a young and dynamic reality that has given itself the ambitious name of I Custodi delle Vigne dell’Etna.
It is a winery that, thanks to the collaboration of Foti as an enologist, has returned to primordial forms of viticulture with alberello shaped vines, in some cases more than two centuries old, planted at a density that sometimes touches 10000 vines per hectare. The recipe for growing these small jewels of nature is very simple: very few treatments during the year, only with sulfur and Bordeaux mush, and a harvest at full maturity, as in the case of Etna Bianco Ante. Ante is a wine that comes from a plot of 1.3 hectares in Contrada Puntolazzo, on the eastern side of Etna, 750 meters above sea level, entirely planted with 14000 grafted vines Carricante (90%), Grecanico and Minnella about 10 years. Once selected in the plant, the grapes are harvested in crates and sent to the cellar where they are pressed and fermented at a controlled temperature of 20 ºC. The resulting wine rests one year in steel tanks and, subsequently, another six months in bottle, before marketing.
The 2015 vintage shows a light and brilliant straw-yellow color, with an olfactory range that opens on notes of plum, medlar, nectarine and hawthorn, followed by chlorophyll, strawberry tree honey, toasted hazelnut and burnt shell. The palate is pleasantly fresh and savory, with a pronounced acidity and a medium body, with a hint of white pepper and the return of the white pulp fruit and spice that accompany the sip until a good length closure.
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