Basking in Mt. Etna’s Glory

In the (three) words of John Szabo, volcanic wines are salt, grit and power.

I will need more than three words to describe my recent trip to Tenuta delle Terre Nere, which is located in the extraordinary location at the northern slopes of the hyperactive volcano, Mt. Etna. Everyday life round Mt. Etna is dominated by the Volcano, referred to by locals as Mama as she both nurtures and scolds her dependents. Her presence is a constant reminder of the delicate balance between life and death.

I visited 5 vineyards during my visit, each with its own very unique personality.

Santo Spirito 1er Cru
The vineyard comprising of 4 parcels makes up 15 hectares. The age of the vines is between 50-100 years. The rich and fertile soil is sandy and deep, made up of 90% ash. Bowl shaped vineyard fills up with debris and ash nutrients from land above. The vineyards suits the very intense variety Carricante letting it produce ample quantities which allows for the intensity to be diluted somewhat. Find our Etna Bianco, Santo Spirito 2017 here.


Guardiola 1er Cru
Meaning to guard, Guardiola aptly sits above Santa Spirito (800-1000 metres above sea level). Here the soil becomes steadily poorer with a high proportion of pebbly basalt along with sand and ash which tends to get washed down to Santo Spirito below. The style of (red) wine in this vineyard goes towards lean and structured with an austerity akin to Barolo. Find our Etna Rosso Guardiola here.


Calderara Sottana Grand Cru
This vineyard surrounds the actual property of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, elevation 600-700 metres. Stoney pebbles with black pumice. This vineyard offers the broadest spectrum of flavours from any of the vineyards. Harvest here can be late, often the second or third week of October. Find our Etna Rosso Calderara Sottana 2015 here.


San Lorenzo Grand Cru
750 metres above sea level, San Lorenzo has similar soil types to Calderara Sottana but with its higher elevation and remote location surrounded by wood on three sides, it is a cool vineyard. The wines therefore are richly concentrated but with a very good ageing capacity. Find our Etna Rosso San Lorenzo here.


Tenuta delle Terre Nere owner, Marco do Grazi was drawn to the power of Mt. Etna, recognising her strengths and weaknesses, “Some things were true (referring to terroir) while others had to be perfected”. Grazi had previously shone the spotlight in Piedmont over many years, however his discovery of volcanic soil and its mouth-watering qualities set him on his life mission to express as purely as possible the refined and multifaceted microcosm of this ancient volcanic land. The soil composition of this volcanic land varies astonishingly; even pure lava comes in technicoloured variations. There is a lightness and freshness to everything in Etna, be it grapes, olives or honey. The bond between the winemakers and nature is what really sets Tenute delle Terre Nere apart from other winemakers, allowing themselves to be guided by the soil and the climate – it’s almost a conversation between the two.