Text Size:-+

2001 Benanti "Pietramarina" Bianco Superiore, Etna DOC, Sicily

benanti_etna_bianco_01.jpgI try to avoid getting into discussions about terroir for the same reasons I avoid arguing about religion: no one has any proof, but everyone seems to have strong opinions. I tend to share my own opinions only amongst those whom I have pre-screened as like-minded when it comes to issues of how and whether wines can actually taste of the place from which they come.

Regardless of whether you are a believer or not, and independent of what elements of its origin you truly believe can be expressed in a wine, perhaps you can agree with me that at the very least, wine is capable of evoking a place. Even if its particular flavors cannot be proven to come from the place where it is grown, there are some wines that, when sipped with closed eyes, can perfectly and vividly evoke their home.

I certainly can't make the sweeping generalization that Italian wines do this better than most, but I can say that many of the wines I have experienced that were so evocative of a particular place have been Italian. So it was no great surprise to me when I opened this bottle and out poured a rocky outcrop perched on the side of an island volcano, buffeted by cool sea breezes.

Grapes have been grown on the flanks of Mount Etna in Sicily probably ever since the first agricultural civilizations set foot on the island, which were certainly no later than the 8th century B.C. As evidenced by seals found on the clay storage vessels called amphorae which litter the ancient shipwrecks on the floor of the Mediterranean, Sicilian viticulture was extremely prosperous by the 2nd century B.C. and many Sicilian grape varieties were exported to the mainland of Italy where they became the basis for thriving winegrowing operations in cities like Pompeii and Etruria.

The slopes of Mount Etna, high above the ocean provide ideal conditions for grape growing -- rocky, sandy soils with good drainage; excellent sunlight; low rainfall; and shifts in temperature between day and night that favor slow complex flavor development in grapes. Like many places in Italy, Sicily also boasts several indigenous grape varieties that have been used to make distinctive wines for centuries.

But perhaps one of the most special aspects of the regions viticulture lies in the age of its vines. Very few European vines survived the Phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, but those that did were often in sandy, volcanic soil, which means that the slopes of Mount Etna now contain some of Europe's oldest grapevines.

The Benanti family has been caring for some of these vines since Giuseppe Benanti took over his father's farm and began expanding the grape acreage in the late 1890s. Across a century, the family passed both a name and the care of the vineyards from grandfather to father to son. Today, Giuseppe Benanti (the 2nd) and his two sons Antonio and Salvino work the family's vineyards on the volcano, coaxing tiny amounts of fruit from densely packed rows of vines that are at least 80 years old on average.

Vincola Benanti has the good fortune to farm a particular patch of vines on the Eastern slopes of Mt. Etna that are distinctive enough that they have been awarded the right to be bottled as Etna Bianco Superiore, a quality designation unavailable to similar white wines grown even a few kilometers away.

The grape known as Carricante makes up the entirety of the white wine produced in this section of the Benanti estate. This varietal, indigenous not only to Sicily but to the Etna region itself, is sometimes also known as Catanese Bianco.

The grapes grow on gnarly stumps that poke out from the soil, un-tethered by trellises or other support mechanisms. The grapes are harvested carefully by hand and fermented at very low temperatures in steel vats, where the final wine ages for a time before being bottled. I don't know much more about the winemaking than that, nor do I know how much they make of this wine, but it can't be a lot.

The biggest mystery, of course, is how Benanti managed to fit the sweeping vistas of the Mediterranean and the herb scented breezes in every sip. I was transported.

Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this wine has a gorgeous nose of honey, candied nuts, and floral aromas. In the mouth it sings of lemon and yellow flowers dusted with bee pollen. Underlying these high notes that zing with acidity, the wine has mellower flavors of paraffin and wet stones that linger into a beautiful finish.

Food Pairing:
What wouldn't this wine go with? If it swims, you can pair it. I'd love to drink this with a plate of freshly seared scallops tossed with olive oil, sea salt, and meyer lemon zest.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $45

This wine is available for purchase on the internet. It is imported by Vino Bravo.

Comments (15)

02.28.08 at 2:52 PM

Thank you for sharing. It looks awesome!

02.28.08 at 9:03 PM

I may be completely wrong, but I'm almost certain I remember, within the past couple of years, a listing of Carricante in California, though, being of the age I be, I'll be damned if I remember where I saw that. Interestingly, most of the North Coast winegrowing regions are at roughly the same latitude as...you guessed it: Sicily!!!

02.28.08 at 9:08 PM

Oops! Wrong; it was Cataratto!

10.29.14 at 11:40 PM

Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
It's the little changes that will make the most significant
changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

10.30.14 at 7:30 AM

I loved as much as you'll receive carried out right here.

The sketch is attractive, your authored material
stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you wish be
delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come
more formerly again since exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike.

10.30.14 at 9:31 AM

Through doing this, you can ensure that this company
will provide everything you will need so as to make your campaign a great success.

I was just reading your article about magnet polarity. For errors such
as 0x - C004F074 the computer system cannot be activated as the key management system is absent or cannot be

Darla wrote:
10.30.14 at 1:50 PM

My spouse and ? stumbled ov?r here by a d?fferent website and
th?ught ? mi?ht as w?ll check t?ings out. ? li?e ?hat I
see so i ?m just foll?wing ??u. L?ok forward t? l?oking ov?r your web page repeatedly.

10.30.14 at 1:54 PM

I am curious to find out what blog platform you are working with?
I'm experiencing some small security issues with my latest
blog and I'd like to find something more risk-free.
Do you have any solutions?

10.30.14 at 2:04 PM

This post is really a pleasant one it assists new the web users, who
are wishing for blogging.

webpage wrote:
10.30.14 at 2:40 PM

One thing Marvel has always done better than DC Comics,
and continues to excel at on the big screen, is make their movies topical and relevant to today's issues.
A series of events led to Dino blaming his partner for a crime that he did not commit.
Despite the fact that that has worn off definitely as of late, Steve's ethics and vales always reflect his time previously.

I ave been exploring for a bit forr any high quality aryicles or
weblog posts on this sort off space . Exploring in Yahoo
I at last stumbled upon this web site. Studying this information So i
am happy to exhibit that I have a very just right uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed.
I so much without a doubnt will make certain to don?t omit this website andd provides it a gance on a constant basis.

Howdy! I could have sworn I've visited this website before but after looking at a few of the articles I realized it's new to me.

Anyhow, I'm definitely pleased I came across it and I'll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

Alex Ber wrote:
10.30.14 at 8:00 PM

You are so cool! I don't believe I've truly read through a single
thing like this before. So great to discover somebody with unique thoughts on this topic.
Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This
site is something that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

10.31.14 at 12:37 AM

Woah! I'm really loving the template/theme of this website.
It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's hard to get that "perfect balance" between usability and appearance.
I must say you've done a superb job with this. In addition, the blog loads extremely fast for
me on Chrome. Exceptional Blog!

10.31.14 at 3:49 AM

I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
I'll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later on. Cheers

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

16th Annual Pinot Fest: November 22, 2014 Hang out with the World's Top Wine Writers. For Free. Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 19, 2014 Vinography Images: Divine Droplets Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets US 2014 Vintage - Early, Fast, Eventful Vinography Images: Big Shadow Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014 Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.