Etna, overlooking the eastern coast of Sicily, is an almost mythical wine region where vineyards climb the sides of Europe’s largest and most active volcano. A lunar landscape where volcanic eruptions have resulted in 46 types of lava-based soils, from stone to sand to ash. The barren landscape has been a saving grace, in some ways: Vines here can be over 100 years old, on original rootstock, because the black soil is resistant to the phylloxera root pest. The blight that decimated the great continental vineyards in the late 1800s passed the region by. The unique subregions that circle Etna are not only some of the southernmost in Italy, but also some of the highest in Europe, generating an alpine climate with the diurnal temperature swings key to growing balanced grapes.
Despite a long history of wine production in Etna, the industry’s past is lacklustre, impoverished, and generally ignored. Emerging from a sea of subpar wines, the last decade has seen an explosion of boutique wineries intent on changing the conversation. Since the late 1980s, wine pioneers, many Sicilians returning to their roots, have revolutionized Etna’s reputation. Rather than rip up indigenous varietals, these producers believe in the untapped potential of these lesser known grapes. Needless to say, Etna is experiencing a renaissance in winemaking.
Terra Costantino’s vineyards climb the southeastern slope of Mount Etna at Contrada Blandano, in the territory of Viagrande, the heart of the Etna DOC zone. From here, you can see the sea and taste the windblown tang of salt in the air. The volcano protects the vines from frost carried by the northerly Tramontana wind. On this single 10 hectare plot, Terra Costantino grows exclusively native Etna varieties according to Certified Organic practices: white-skinned Carricante and Catarrato, and red-skinned Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. In the cellar, ancient presses sit beside modern vinification equipment.
We couldn’t be more excited by Terra Costantino’s potential. These are elegant, honest wines with character and a true sense of place.