At a little over 3,300 meters Mount Etna is massive; it dominates Sicily and formed a point of reference during the week long Circle of Wine Writers tour of the island. The first vineyard stop on the tour had the smoking mountain as its dramatic backdrop; here Nero d’Avola and Carricante vines thrive on the volcanic soils of the Firriato estate. Dusty is certainly the word. The ultra fine soil managed to creep into socks and shoes regardless of the plastic coverings supplied. Nearly all relished a glass of the estates traditional method sparkling – the Firriato Gaudensius Brut – to cleanse the palate of the grit.
No spectacular lava gushes or explosions, despite a wish for some dramatic photographs but the danger from Europe’s most active volcano is tampered by the unique environment it provides for the dozens of wine producers covering its eastern flanks (north via east to the south). Its soils do something special to grapes such as Nero d’Avola, Perricone, Nerello Mascalese, Grillo, Carricante and others.