By Paul Caputo

UNESCO protected Parco dell’Etna is an area of incredible natural beauty. Just beneath the continuous plumes of ash and smoke, a plethora of fertile vegetation and diverse wildlife extends from the summit to the townships below. Exactly what grows where is subject to the intricacies of the micro-climate but flora generally is dictated by a terrain of richly mineralised, black solidified magma; oak forests, vineyards, hazelnut tree groves, apple and chestnut orchards grow in abundance.

Amongst this roam foxes, wild cats, porcupines, martens, rabbits, and hares along with weasels, hedgehogs, dormice, and several species of mice and bats. Flying overhead, sparrow-hawks, buzzards, kestrels, peregrines, and the golden eagle survey their domains waiting to swoop; at night, the barn, scope and tawny owls are on patrol. In the woodlands the usual racket is made by pigeons, warblers and cuckoos.

This is a busy place to make wine but Etna is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world at the moment; both red and white wines grown in single vineyards are showing such character and personality that wine commentators are comparing the potential of this complex DOC with Burgundy. This remains to be seen, but as stocks of older wine mount up in cellars, there will be plenty of opportunity to taste their progression.