I am surprised about the incredible vintage differences in the Etna region, not only in terms of climate or harvest complications but especially through the expression of the wines 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.
Following is a very brief and surely incomplete description of the vintages we have produced so far:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cool starting of the season with selecting and cleaning before picking. A balanced vintage with crisp wines, especially for our white MunJebel Bianco 4. Magma 6VA turned out to be hugely concentrated and profound.
Like 2001, a vintage without difficulty and 20% higher crop than average. Round and mellow tannins, balanced overall. To my opinion also wines with a bit less character.
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 because of mould (not in low yielding and well ventilated vineyards), it has been one of my greatest so far with balanced wines overall combined with character and tannins. Great for our white MunJebel Bianco 6VA.
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 few bottles of MunJebel crus and no Grand Vin Magma.
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, although our white MunJebel suffered from this with more tannins and less elegance than usual. A great and profound vintage for pure Nerello Mascalese.
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 compensated the late start of the season. A very dry summer accelerated maturity and autumn remained dry. We finished picking very early on October 23rd. Potentially a good to very good vintage, with an excessive “big” touch to all wines as well as exceptional pigment ripeness, although less representative for Etna. Or maybe exactly very much Etna… Especially our red wines will need time as they are incredibly dense.
A very dry winter with little snow down in the Norhern valley. The real winter started early February and compensated the lack of rain we suffered in the autumn of 2012. A relatively balanced growing season with no big problems, except for lots of vegetation to manage and high crop to reduce during green harvest. While getting out of the summer, we were some 20 days behind in terms of ripeness and this delay was recovered only in the last week of October to early November. Our top red wines, MunJebel® and Magma®, will have an elegance combined with a good to very good structure because of the late harvesting. Our rose Susucaru®, red Contadino and our white MunJebel® Bianco will have elegance and will be more flavour driven compared to the bigger 2011 and 2012 vintages. A very difficult vintage which will result in good to very good+ wines.