Vintage differences of Etna wines

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Preparing our 12th harvest here on Etna, I am surprised about the incredible vintage differences, not only in terms of climate or harvest complications but especially through the expression of the wines. During lunch with Alberto Aiello and Andrea Franchetti, amongst many issues, we were discussing this vintage difference phenomena which is very specific to Etna and is rare or less extreme in other wine regions.

In a way this coincides with the dramatic and harsh natural environment, the abrupt change in seasons and the regular outbursts of the volcano.

Here is a very brief and surely incomplete list of the vintages with a general comment:

2001
The year I started and so most likely not an accurate description. A vintage with little difficulty and relatively early harvesting, around mid October. Perfect and uncomplicated. Great to start with!

2002
Very backwards, the grapes had difficulty to ripen with high tannins. Very late picking. On top of this we had Etna erupting big time which caused early November lava ash to fall on the vines and grapes creating difficulty in cleaning grapes while picking.

2003
A vintage to forget in the Northern valley of Etna… early autumn was beautiful but then early October the rain didn’t stop. We lost 85% of our crop.

2004
A cool vintage with very high acidity, very late harvest for the lower plots around 700m. asl. We waited for the ripening of the acidity which arrived early November.

2005
A difficult, rainy harvest with beautiful fruit in the end. Lots of selecting and in the end partially botrytis on both Grecanico and Nerello. A special vintage.

2006
A balanced growing season with a very hot week-end in August, right at the moment of the color change of the grapes, resulting in severe heat damage of the grapes, losing some 60% of crop. Very early picking with big alcoholic wines.

2007
Cool starting of the season with selecting and cleaning before picking. A balanced vintage with crisp wines, especially our white.

2008
Like 2001, a vintage without difficulty and 20% higher crop than average. Round and mellow tannins, balanced overall. To my opinion also wines with less character.

2009
Cool starting of the season, a bit like 2007 with a rainy autumn but lots of wind which kept the grapes clean. Although many regard this a lesser vintage, it has been my greatest so far with balanced wines overall combined with character and tannins.

2010
All together our worst vintage in terms of weather during harvest. Lots of humidity and little or no wind to blow the valley dry during harvest, resulting in mould gradually attacking the grapes. We had to harvest continuously in small parts to stay on top of the critical situation. A beautiful base wine and extremely little crus and no grand vin Magma.

2011
Balanced starting of the season, a little later than average with mildew anticipating crop thinning. Perfect picking overall with unusual phenolic maturity, never seen before in the high vineyards. Wines of high concentration, a bit too much for both our base red (Contadino) and our white MunJebel which is more tannic than usual.

2012
Lots of rain and snow during winter which regenerated the vines. A hailblast between Passopisciaro and Solicchiata before the buts were open resulted in 50% less crop in this area. Early warm weather balanced the late start of the season.
Hope we will have a good vintage!

July 7th, 2012

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