The Power of Terroir in Sicily’s Volcanic White Wines
Sicily, like the rest of Italy, has long been known as red wine territory. Yet slowly, the whites of Sicily, particularly those grown in the foothills of Mount Etna, have been earning attention as among the most distinctive and unusual white wines in Italy, if not the world.
What makes them so different? These are not conventional, fruity whites. They offer none of the tropical flavors sometimes associated with New World chardonnays, none of the peach and apricot of German rieslings, not even the tart twang of sauvignon blancs.
THE TASTING REVEALED a region in transition, evolving from just a few producers carrying the carricante torch to a greater number who perhaps have not yet settled on the best methods of viticulture and wine production.
In some bottles we found evidence in the forefront of winemaking techniques — oak flavors from barrel aging, or creamy textures from stirring the lees, the sediment left over after yeast complete the fermentation. John characterized these as “wines of style” rather than wines of place.
Yet the power of the terroir could not be muffled. Even in these wines, the combination of grape and place — which produces the wine’s essential floral, herbal, saline character — was able to shine through.
No. 5 was the salty, earthy, distinctive 2016 Ante from I Custodi, a project that includes Salvo Foti, who has done much not only to explore the potential of Etna wines but to preserve traditional methods of grape growing and winemaking in the region. I also highly recommend the wines from Mr. Foti’s own label, I Vignieri.