THE ENERGY OF THE VOLCANO
High mountainside viticulture conducted in full sun, the mix of such unique conditions make viticulture on Etna a natural laboratory for creating excellence. Over a total of 84 hectares covering the north slope of the volcano, with vineyards on large terraces, but also on the edge of ancient lava flows, Firriato has developed a restoration and enhancement project unique across the whole Etna area. It consists of a pre-phylloxera vineyard, an ancient farmhouse with two 17th century palmentos and vineyards that stretch up the volcano’s slopes at heights varying from 650 to more than 950 metres above sea level. The land, due to the andisol soil having a high silicon content of more than 60%, is extremely porous and the soil substrate of basaltic rock guarantees, due to its so-called sponge effect, a constant source of water for the plants. Here, thanks to the marked range in temperature between day and night, the great oenological merits of the volcano are silently emitted, and are exhibited in its flavourful fruit: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Catarratto and Carricante. It is successively from these grapes that elegant and sought-after wines such as Gaudensius, the cru Cavanera Rovo delle Coturnie and the cru Cavanera Ripa di Scorciavacca are produced.
The winery’s vineyards are spread over 12 “Contrade” (districts), with very different soil and climatic characteristics that allow it to sustain a varied and always excellent production. The microbiological and microchemical nature of the lava flows differs greatly in its concentration of elements, not only in correspondence with a specific time band during which the magmatic activity took place, but also functionally in a certain area of the volcano affected by the eruptive phenomena. This gives rise to a very varied pathological picture and consequently a very varied supply of microelements, which both in viticulture and in enology, ensures a multiple reading of the terroir to which it belongs. This means that it is possible that the same vine can give rise to completely different wines depending on the areas, better called and known as the “districts” where the vineyards are located.
During the mild days of spring, when the skies are clear and the clouds dance around the summit of Etna, Firriato’s vineyards are resplendent in all their glory. Vine specimens that have been growing for hundreds of years— real natural sculptures— populate the terraces surrounding the antique palmento and are testimony of widespread vine cultivation even before the time of the phylloxera plague. Vineyards cover three different areas of the Cavanera Etnea Estate totalling an area of 84 hectares. Firriato’s main centre on Etna is on the North-East slope in Contrada Verzella at a height of 600m above sea level, while to the north at an altitude of 950m above sea level are the vineyards of Contrada Sant’Antonio and Contrada Montedolce.
The north east slope of Etna is characterised by a phenomenon of urbanisation which is evidenced by the important presence of small agricultural plots marked by antique farmhouses. The Di Gaetano family have decided to continue this legacy by returning the property in Contrada Verzella back to its former glory. The property consists of the main farmhouse and the palmento (an old word applied to the structure and the equipment contained within, for making wine), dating back to the 1700s, which contains the wooden wine press, the containment vats carved out from the rock, and the drainage channels which were made either from terracotta or hollowed out from the hard basalt rock. It is a precious example of a physical artefact linked to wine-making culture, and is testimony of a history which Firriato has restored and brought to life once again.
Etna’s volcanic terrain is powerful because from a geological point of view it is a young cultivation area, capable of releasing a highly valuable supply of minerals. The extreme youth of the terrain makes it rich in elements such as iron, silica, aluminium, manganese and magnesium. The fertility of these soils is immense because their high mineral content is easily accessed by the plants’ roots—roots that in the sandy volcanic soil can reach a depth of several metres. This exponentially increases the absorbance of nutrients necessary for the plants’ productive cycle—a cycle which is also determined by the plants’ exposure.
The Cavanera Etnea Resort is a place to experience and discover the strong link the Di Gaetano family have with Etna. A place where they interpret its nature through scrupulous mountainside viticulture, bringing the volcano’s unique and distinctive oenological characteristics to the glass. It is the ideal location for a 360 degree experience in the sensorial universe of the wines produced in this enchanting setting. The resort is equipped with all the modern comforts for an elegant stay in an unspoilt natural landscape. A landscape to be explored and admired by taking an excursion in the Etna woods or up to the craters at the summit of the volcano.