Mount Etna is Europe's highest volcano and one of the world's most active. 'a Muntagna, as the locals call it, is rich in mineral components and the microclimate - cool nights, warm days and wide ranging temperature variations - endow the wines with extraordinary richness, minerality, fragrance and depth. After World War II many of the vineyards were abandoned until the 1990's, when a group of young winemakers started reviving the 100 plus year old gnarly vines.
Massimiliano Calabretta is the fourth generation of his family to produce wine on Mount Etna. Beginning in the early 1900’s, the family made wine and shipped it north to supply their wine shops in Genova. Massimiliano is part natural winemaker/philosopher who, in his day job, is a Professor of Electrical Power Engineering, specialising in Nuclear Fusion. The vineyards are located on the northern side between Randazzo and Solicchiata, all alberello vines, mostly 80+ years old and many planted on piede franco (ungrafted rootstock). No chemicals or pesticides have ever been used and the wines are fermented naturally. His approach to winemaking is both highly experimental and staunchly traditional and the flagship wine, Vigne Vecchie, is Nerello Mascalese aged for up to nine years in botti grandi before being bottled and released. It is this approach that has resulted in Calabretta being compared to many of the greats of old school Barolo. The current release, 2007, walks a tightrope between being fully mature, yet fresh and energetic at the same time – it’s a wine that can only come from the lava rock of Mount Etna. Gaio Gaio is a selection of young vine Nerello Mascalese, aged in stainless and cask, and is fruity with Etna’s classic minerally backbone. The downside is that quantities are low and the wines are highly sought after around the world.