It becomes a natural impulse when you reach the end of a year to take a nostalgic look back over the previous twelve months. In 2015, some moments jump out more vividly than others and this visit to the Vino di Anna vineyards and the palmento is definitely a highlight.
I met Anna Martens, an Australian married to a Frenchman and living in London, last year and we exchanged contact details.
When I visited Mount Etna in April as part of a Wine Mosaic trip with Jean-Luc Etievent, visiting Anna was high up on my to-do list.
It just so happened that our dates coincided and Anna was available to show us around. In fact, she had only just arrived back on the island that morning and suggested that we all go to check out her vineyards.
She and her husband Eric have a handful of plots on the north face of Mount Etna – mainly planted with the highly sought after Nerello Mascalese grape variety as albarello (bush vines), and often ranging between 60 and 100 years old.
To see her excitement while surveying the vines and noticing some which had already reached bud break was fantastic.
Bud break is one of the most exhilarating moments in the year because it signifies the start of a new growth cycle. After the long winter dormancy period, seeing new life emerge from what is essentially an old shrivelled piece of wood is quite miraculous.
Winter 2014-2015 had been a long and difficult one – plenty of snow amidst bitingly cold temperatures.
As well as Nerello Mascalese, there are small amounts of Nerello Cappuccio and Alicante, which are blended with the Nerello Mascalese, and Grecanico, Minella and Carricante for the white.
The vineyards range from between 750m and 900m in altitude, are terraced and are farmed organically. When Anna and Eric are not there, the vineyards are managed by the i Vigneri team (headed up by Salvo Foti – more about him to come later) and a local boy, Valerio, who graduated in agronomy.
As you would expect from this volcanic terroir, most of the soils are black, but there is this one (in the pictures) near Linguaglossa, where the soil is full of iron and therefore bright red.
Anna makes her wine in an old palmento located in the village of Solicchiata (also on north face of the volcano, but slightly more inland.) Like nearly all the wines I talk about on this blog, they are made with minimal intervention, only natural yeasts, and little-to-no SO2. Some wines (the Etna Rosso) are aged in wood barrels, others in Georgian qvevri and others still accordingly to the traditional method of open-fermentation in a palmento then crushed by feet.
Anna and Eric only started making wine here in 2010. It may seem like they are jumping on the bandwagon of modern trends (namely Etna’s terroir and Georgian qvevri) but you can’t deny that the wines are original. This is surely a winery to watch in 2016!