Azienda Fischetti represents what winemaking on Etna is all about. Old vines, organic viticulture, low production and estate bottled wines produced from local varieties that have been hand picked from small vineyards…
Located on the edge of Castiglione di Sicilia on the north side of Mount Etna, this is a relatively new winery project. In 2007 the Fischetti family purchased the property from an ageing grower who had historically sold his fruit to other winemakers outside of the region and had no children interested in carrying his work on. It was a great opportunity and the potential of the site was no doubt clear.
Little has changed in the vineyards since 2007 and today they are still typical of a bygone age of winemaking on Etna; although only three hectares, the parcel is planted with a mix of local varieties, from Etna’s famous red grapes Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio to whites such as Carricante, Catarratto and even small amounts of the very rare Minella.
The vineyard’s charm, also referred to as ‘Muscamento’ on Etna’s historical charter of ‘cru’ vineyard sites, is that the old bush vines, some of which are almost a century old, are all mixed together. Red and white grow side by side on free standing albarello vines. In reality this is a working fruit farm in the early 20th century style, with cherry trees, pomegranates, figs, limes and other seasonal produce providing year round supplies.
The soils are complex too; while generally volcanic, the more northern aspects of the site are much sandier than the rocky elements that become apparent as one moves further south towards the volcano. We are high up, almost 650 metres, meaning the grapes are well aerated and develop impressive aromas. Like other vineyards in the area the vines are ungrafted as the dreaded phylloxera pest does not survive in this terrain. Consequently organic viticulture is generally followed at Fischetti, but given the age of the vines the need for occasional flexibility trumps any plans to officially certify it.
After purchasing the property, the Fischetti family undertook a complete renovation of the cellar, transforming the old buildings into a very classy, elegant tasting room that maintains the heritage of this old winemaking estate. The historic press or ‘palmento’, which is common throughout wineries in this part of Sicily, has been preserved and even incorporated into the ambiance of the tasting room where guests can enjoy local delicacies and the estate’s wines.
The wines are good, but the whites are currently more expressive of Etna’s mineral soils than the red. They are fresh and floral and exude the kind of terroir notes that the region has become famous for. A small period on the lees also provides some texture to the tiny production of around 900 bottles a year. The Etna Rosso, while certainly an excellent wine, enjoys an extended stay in medium toasted oak which, although tames some of the varietal acidy, also masks some of the natural characteristics of the wine.