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. (Last Updated 19/Nov/2015)
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 as well as elegance, especially for Nerello Mascalese. Our MunJebel Bianco suffered in this vintage with more tannins and less elegance than usual. A great and profound vintage for pure Nerello Mascalese, especially Magma which we were able to pick in perfect moon as well as zodiac position.
Harvest/vintage report 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 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. Wines for aging.
A very dry winter with little snow in the Northern valley. The real winter started early February and compensated the lack of rain we suffered in the autumn and early winter 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. Wines to drink early due to their fruitiness.
A balanced growing season without much problems overall. More attention was payed in the vineyards with canopy management done more often and with more attention to avoid direct sunlight. Treatments in the vineyards were done spot-on and the fruit was near-to-perfect. Late summer and autumn was dry and the sugar levels end of September were very high without the balance of acidity and phenolic ripeness. We waited for the rain to come end of October and were able to pick in perfect moon cycle. We took a big risk for the picking as I wanted to harvest all the red grapes in a quick move and we invested a lot of money in new equipment in the cellar for receiving grapes to pull this stunt. The investments payed off and we picked 50.000Kg of grapes in 2,5 days in 8 different vineyards with over 35 pickers… a stunt!
The result are stunning wines with depth, body, precision. The wines are dry, complex and very balanced. I am very happy with the result and especially the decision to invest in better equipment which payed off. With the wines of the 2014 vintage, we stepped into anther level of winemaking.
A very wet vintage from early in the season, needing double the treatments of a classic Northern valley Etna vintage. 7 treatments all together which is very unusual. Vegetation did not stop and the workload was tremendously intense. In June we suffered in Passopisciaro a hail blast which reduced crop in the Feudo di Mezzo vineyards to 25%. The next day Solicchiata got hammered in the Piano Daini vineyard… Summer was unusual also with some rainfall during August which accelerated photosynthesis of the vines up to the point of reaching maturation for the white grapes already in September, although with less sugar and thus alcohol.
Autumn was complicated with humidity and mould expanding on vineyards with too high crop. As we do every year a kind of crop thinning, picking out the excessive bunches for the rosé, our Nerello was impeccable. Moon cycle was not going to be good, except if waiting until November and this we picked extremely early and finished in a rush, like 2014, all grapes in few days. Again, our cellar equipment allowed us to do this and we finished on October 20th with complete darkness and torches all grapes.
It is difficult to say right now what the wines will be like, although I have the intuition that the wines will be very elegant, expressive, with less body. It will be a vintage to pay attention in the cellar as we have less margin for errors due to the lack of body. Personally I am very, very curious!