For those in search of lively white wines with electrifying acidity and tantalizing flavors that dance on the palate, look no further than Etna Bianco DOC. These white Sicilian wines hail from the volcanic slopes surrounding Mount Etna. And similar to Etna Rosso, they’re produced under the same Etna DOC.
With the buzz around volcanic wines in recent years, Etna Bianco wines have become quite popular with wine enthusiasts around the world. Though perhaps a bit less well known than their red counterparts. Along with other Sicilian whites like Grillo, Etna Bianco has forged a distinctive path all its own and unlike any other white wines on the market. These wines evoke a savory quality rarely found in wines elsewhere. Vivid acidity and generally lower alcohol levels around 12.5% abv make these Sicilian white wines particularly refreshing and dynamic.
When summer temperatures make it feel as if you’re baking under the strong southern Mediterranean sun, Etna Bianco is sure to refresh. Yet thanks to the influence of volcanic soils and the unique characteristics of the indigenous Sicilian varieties with which these wines are made, Etna Bianco is complex enough for the fall and winter months. In short, these Sicilian wines are guaranteed to please year round.
Carricante is a vigorous variety which produces very high yields if not trained and cared for properly throughout the growing season. Its name is derived from “u carricanti” in local dialect, which means “heavily laden,” or “carica” in Italian, which means “load.”
This unique variety only grows in Sicily with around 200 hectares (500 acres) planted on the island, mainly around the volcanic slopes of Mamma Etna. Beloved for its marked acidity, Carricante’s best expressions are cultivated in high elevation vineyards on Mount Etna, some reaching as high as 1,200 meters (3,940 ft) above sea level. Plus, this Sicilian variety loves the diurnal temperature swings typical of the climate around Mount Etna. The heat and Mediterranean sun develop flavors and move maturation along, while the cooler nighttime temperatures preserve Carricante’s trademark acidity.
Catarratto, Carricante’s counterpart in Etna Bianco, is an ancient Sicilian variety which accounts for over 30% of all vineyard plantings on the island. There are at least eight phenotypes of Catarratto in Sicily. The most prominent of which are Catarratto Commune, Catarratto Lucido, and Catarratto Extra Lucido. This variety is highly adaptable to numerous soil types and climates. Consequently, it thrives in several regions throughout Sicily, including Palermo, Agrigento, and Trapani.
As a high yielding variety, Catarratto requires careful pruning in the vineyard to yield quality wines. It’s widely known for producing full-bodied and typically somewhat neutral wines when produced in bulk. Though skilled winemakers can produce Catarratto with a juicy texture and rich citrus flavors.
Etna Bianco DOC
The Etna DOC became the first DOC established in Sicily in 1968. The designation encompasses around 120 square kilometers around Mount Etna, covering 1,18 hectares (2,925 acres) of vineyards. It includes bianco, rosso, rosato, and sparkling wines. Superiore designation wines can only be produced in the commune of Milo. Plus, there are additional geographic subzones called contrade which may be indicated on the label.
For Etna Bianco DOC, white wines must be made from a minimum of 60% Carricante with a maximum of 40% Catarratto and a maximum of 15% other native varieties.
Etna Bianco Wines to Try
Nicosia was founded on the slopes of Mount Etna in 1898 and has been passed down from father to son for five generations ever since. The historic family-owned winery is dedicated to producing great Sicilian wines for wine lovers across the world. In keeping with traditions rooted in the land, Nicosia has obtained several organic certifications and is also part of VIVA for sustainability. Learn more about this Sicilian winery here.
Tenute Nicosia Lenza di Munti Etna Bianco DOC
The Lenza di Munti Etna Bianco is a blend of 80% Carricante and 20% Catarratto. Grown on lava terraces of Mount Etna at 700 meters above sea level, the grapes undergo a 24 hour cold maceration upon arrival at the winery before destemming followed by a soft pressing. The juice fermented for 20-25 days at controlled temperatures of 15-18°C (59-64°F). Then the wine aged in stainless steel vats on the fine lees for 2 months.
With an intense bouquet of white flowers like lime verbena and honeysuckle, coupled with grapefruit and Meyer lemon citrus aromas, I could tell at first sniff this Etna Bianco was bound to delight. The palate was bursting with energetic acidity, mineral and citrus flavors, and had a nicely balanced structure.
Other Etna Bianco wines to try:
Etna Bianco Wine Pairing Recommendations
Etna Bianco’s freshness, elegance, and minerality make this Sicilian white wine the ultimate match for fresh seafood. Try pairing Etna Bianco with sushi, grilled branzino or roasted sea bass stuffed with citrus and fresh herbs, linguini a vongole, or grilled shrimp and calamari skewers loaded with lemon and garlic. Otherwise, fried seafood and other fried foods are a delectable match for the vibrant acidity and citrus flavors of Etna Bianco. Think calamari fritti, fritto misto (seafood or vegetable), shrimp tempura, arancini, and even fried chicken!