After the many years we live here, I continue being surprised about the incredible vintage differences in the northern valley of Etna, not only in terms of climate or harvest complications but especially through the expression of the wines which is very specific to Etna and less pronounced in other wine regions.
In a way this coincides with the dramatic and harsh natural environment, the abrupt changes in seasons and the regular outbursts of the volcano.
Following is a brief and surely incomplete description of the vintages we have produced so far, giving you an idea of each vintage:
The year I started and so most likely not an accurate description, neither evaluation. A vintage with little difficulty and relatively early harvesting, around mid October. Perfect and uncomplicated. Great to start with!
My preferred wine of this vintage: Magma 1 as this is the first vintage, a unique wine for its intellectual and emotional intensity
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. By far our most evolved wines ever produced.
My preferred wine of this vintage: Mongibello 1 for the balance
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 nightmare.
My preferred wine of this vintage: Contadino 1 as it embodies a new concept of vinification, approach and vision
A cool vintage with high acidity, very late harvest for the lower sites. We waited for the ripening of the acidity which arrived early November. Wines with various character where I prefer the lower vineyards.
Good+ / Very Good
My preferred wine of this vintage: Contadino 2 for the evolution of a concept into a very good wine
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 with wines expressing themselves like on a rollercoaster…
My preferred wine of this vintage: Montebello Bianco 1 because of the botrytis; exceptional
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. Another lesson of life…
My preferred wine of this vintage: Magma “R” for its concentration
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. Getting better with the weather forecasts and selections!
My preferred wine of this vintage: Susucaru Rosato 1 as this wine was not planned and was a strike as of the first vintage
Like 2001, a vintage without difficulty and 20% higher crop than average. Round and mellow tannins, balanced overall. To my opinion also wines with less character which I tend to forget.
My preferred wine of this vintage: Contadino 6 for the its exceptional quality/price
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 our greatest so far with balanced wines overall combining character and tannins. Great for our white MunJebel Bianco 6VA, the first white wine from Etna which I really enjoyed.
My preferred wine of this vintage: MunJebel Bianco 6 “VA”, a thrilling and deep wine which made me change my rather negative view on white wines of Etna
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. All of this when we decided to amplify the cellar…
My preferred wine of this vintage: MunJebel Rosso 7 “VA” for elegance and finesse
Balanced starting of the season, a little later than average with mildew anticipating crop thinning and some powdery mildew early august. 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.
Exceptional. Some wines are Unique
My preferred wine of this vintage: Magma 9; simply an exceptional wine
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 need time as they are incredibly concentrated without being “cooked”. Wines for aging.
My preferred wine of this vintage: MunJebel 9 “VA” for the great elegance regardless the huge concentration
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. The top red wines have elegance combined with good structure because of the late harvesting. A difficult vintage which will result in very good wines to drink early due to their fruitiness.
My preferred wine of this vintage: Susucaru Rosato for it’s conceptual balance and personality
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; we stepped into anther level of winemaking.
My preferred wine of this vintage: Magma for the balance as all elements fitted perfectly
A very wet vintage from early in the season, needing double the treatments of a classic Northern valley Etna vintage. 8 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 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 thus we picked extremely early and finished in a rush, like 2014, all grapes in few days. Again, our cellar equipment and team worked perfectly to do this and we finished picking all grapes on October 20th with complete darkness and torches.
Wines of great elegance, expressive, but less body. Not a vintage to cellar but great for drinking early.
My preferred wine of this vintage: Contadino as it is unique, blending the rosé and rosso together into one wine
A vintage where finally we did not encounter all the difficulties of the previous years like hail, mildew, bad weather, ….. the growing season was balanced and the fenolics are similar to 2011, 2012 and 2014, although more austere and backwards with more tannins. The tannic structure had me decide ti bottle later this year although in the end, I am not convinced this was a good decision. I still believe it is better to bottle a bit earlier and give more bottle age to the wine. the press was lavish over this vintage although personally I am more reserved. It is very good but misses the charisma of 2011 or the overall balance of 2014. The positive note is that it is very Etna and represents this valley very well.
My preferred wine of this vintage: MunJebel Rosso “VA” for concentration, tannins and overall balance
The growing season was relatively dry, resulting in impeccable fruit with little or no mildew or other diseases during the season. The summer was dry but not extremely dry and so the vegetation kept on going and the concentrations reminded me of 2012. Although the picking of the white grapes was extremely early, rain in September arrived in the right moment which resulted in perfect physical maturation for the Nerello Mascalese, even in the highest vineyards. The 2017 crus were picked in the right moon phase as well as zodiac. An unusual event. The best wines are concentrated and need time to develop, like 2012.
My preferred wine of this vintage: MunJebel Bianco “VA” for the tension, ripeness of fruit, profoundness and longevity
Rain and cool weather continued after spring into summer with August being the wettest month in the last 18 vintages… the complete opposite compared to 2017. Many of the higher vineyards have not produced high enough quality of grapes to make it into the single vineyard wines and there will be no Magma in 2018 either. Our crop thinning was done too late also as we were indecisive with the wet summer. Together with 2003, this is by far the worst vintage we had so far. But a great learning school where we applied all our skills and equipment for selecting and pulling the best out of this tragedy.
I decided to use sulphur for the first time on all the 2018 wines in order to protect the wines from disintegrating rapidly. An apparent radical choice, but after 18 vintages of experience, this was for me the right choice.
The red wines are very light in color, fragile as well as tight with little extraction and low alcohol. The Bianco 2018 is very good+; what a relief and joy!
My preferred wine of this vintage: MunJebel Bianco classico for its depth and age worthiness
After a disastrous 2018, we were ready for everything…. nature was gentle and treated us with impeccable fruit after a relatively balanced growing season. What a relief! But looks deceive: although the picking was less stressful, we had trouble with uneven maturation within the clusters. The sorting table was very usefull during this harvest for picking out the unevenly ripened clusters and increased the quality at this stage.
The red wines have good tension and overall balance. Although this is not a cellar vintage, the phenolics are good, structure is present and these wines are a welcome relief after a terribly complicated 2018!
My preferred wine of this vintage: Munjebel Rosso “MC” for the smooth tannins, balance and elegance
The real winter came only end of January but with good snow; the pruning was finished late as we had to do some corrective pruning in a new vineyard which took more time than planned. The rest of the season was relatively balanced and we slide into the harvest pretty smoothly with stress for some of the workers to get COVID and send the whole team in quarantine… it was very stressful to keep everybody safe and sound but we managed with lots of precautions. Harvest went pretty easy as the nice weather was continuing until late autumn. A nice compensation to the COVID stress!
The reds have a nice balance and I like the structure of the wines as tannins are present and all fits nicely. Magma was picked in perfect zodiac and I was really happy. The Bianco Vigne Alte will be promising.
My preferred wine of this vintage: Susucaru Rosato for its rich flavors and freshness combined