In 2000 Andrea Franchetti decided to restore an old farm and cellars on the higher slopes of mount Etna. The winery which later was to initiate the renaissance of viticulture on the mountain and an international discovery of the wines of Etna sits at about a thousand meters of altitude above the small wine town of Passopisciaro in the district of Castiglione di Sicilia, on the north slope of the volcano. The wine “Passopisciaro” was a rendering of the grape that is unique and ever-present on Mount Etna, Nerello Mascalese, a botanical ancestor of Pinot Noir.
This was the first modern bottling of Nerello wine. Up until recently, wines from Etna were sold in bulk. In 2005 Franchetti starts making a striking red, named after the vintner, made with Petit Verdot and Cesanese d’Affile, loaded with sweet spices, cassis and plum that are woven together with profound elegance. The following year Guardiola came along, 100% Chardonnay planted at a 1000 mt a.s.l., a fresh, mineral and aromatic white wine.
In 2008, Franchetti started making single-vineyard bottlings from areas on different altitudes, where there had been some classic old feudal properties renown for their wines. The name of these “Contradas” are: Chiappemacine, Porcaria, Sciaranuova, Rampante, growing respectively at 550 mt, 650, 850 and 1000 mt. Andrea Franchetti had realized immediately that once the grapes reached the cellar, they produced different wines depending on the district from which they came from. The Contradas each come from vineyards of different ages and are each on a lava flow with different minerals, grain size and altitudes: this led him to vinify each district separately, representing the different taste of mount Etna’s ancient crus.
Etna is one of Italy’s most fascinating emerging wine regions and Andrea Franchetti is arguably the area’s most fanatical, driven producer. High altitude vineyards, volcanic soils, ancient indigenous grape varieties in Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio and a rediscovery of the uniqueness of these vineyards are among the reasons for the spectacular growth in interest the Etna has seen in recent years. Antonio Galloni
During July, the 2009 single vineyard cru’s from Passoposiciaro will be shipped to Australia via Mondo Imports. These wines should be available in the Australian market at the end of August.