The fascination with Etna in the eyes of growers and consumers alike revolves around the fertile soils of sandy, decomposed volcanic rock and the various depths, ages and elevations of lava flows. Many of the Contrada extend over 1,000 meters above sea level, Etna’s vineyards are some of Europe’s highest, and the cool nights late in the growing season favor slow ripening and the development of extremely complex aromas at relatively low alcohol levels.
Vigneti Vecchio is a small family-run estate in the village of Solicchiata on Etna’s northern face where the best Contradas are found for Nerello Mascalese. Carmelo Vecchio and his wife, Rosa La Guzza are true locals who have grown up in Etna’s vineyards. Carmelo began working for Andrea Franchetti at the nearby Passopisciaro winery at a young age, and after fifteen years of hands-on experience, the time came to strike out on his own. He and Rosa inherited a small 2 acre vineyard of old vines up to 130 years old where they have practiced sustainable organic farming. Vigneti Vecchio’s vineyards are a sight to see: alberello-trained vines up to 130 years old poke out of a moonlike landscape of dusty volcanic sand that is occasionally bisected by errant solidified lava flows, called sciare.
90% of this Etna Rosso from the Contrada Malpasso (2,000 feet asl) is Nerello Mascalese, while the remaining indigenous varieties include white grapes of Carricante, Cataratto, Inzolia and Malvasia. All the grapes are traditionally fermented together in stainless steel tank the family’s tiny cellar beneath their home. Then pressed and moved to 6 months of aging in 500 L used barrel. The wine is bottled without fining or filtration. Including one Etna Bianco and two other Etna Rosso, the Vecchio’s produce only about about 1,000 cases of wine annually.
The Sciare Vive has redolent aromas of Bing cherry, ripe strawberry and plum, with an underlying minerality of scorched earth. Elegant and refined on the palate. Balanced with fresh supporting acidity and fine chalky tannins. One can easy pay twice the price for a lesser expression of Etna Rosso. The Vecchio’s are definitely rising stars to watch!