Etna Wine: a millennial history

Valeria Coglitore · 10 April 2020 · News

A journey into the past to discover the story of Etna wine, one of the most ancient winemaking traditions of Sicily.

The winemaking tradition in the area of the Etna has a millennial history. The incredible history of Etna wine has origin in the ancient past, from the Greek and Roman dominations to the present day.

Beginning of the history of the Etna wine: the arrival of the Greeks.

According to the historical evidences, the province of Catania is the most ancient agricultural civilization in Sicily; indeed, the first agricultural communities date back to the Neolithic. It was then the first area of the eastern Sicily to be colonized by the Greeks in 729 b.C, who brought significant innovations in the agricultural techniques and introduced the viticulture and wine. In the V century b.C. the area of the Etna was already heavily vine-covered; also during the Roman domination, the wine cultivation was constantly increasing. Afterward, began a period of decline, which continued until the late Middle Ages.

The Golden Age of the County of Mascali

Already in the ‘500s the wines produced in the area of the Etna were praised; from the ‘700s there are records of the extraordinary diffusion of the viticulture in the province of Catania and were mentioned the wine of the County of Mascali (which then included the current villages of Mascali, Giarre, Riposto, Sant’Alfio, Santa Venerina and Milo), particularly renowned and exported, especially in Malta. 

Nonetheless, it was during the following century that both the production and reputation of the wine of the Etna area continued to grow, and consequently also the trades. The port of Riposto, became the main centre of the European sales and export of the Etna wine. Throughout the ‘800s the vine production expanded also in territorial way, arriving up to the whole  area at the foot of the volcano; the vineyards owned by small noble families were upgraded and expanded too, new wineries were born. At the end of the century, the province of Catania was the most cultivated of the island, with 90.000 hectares of vineyards. 

From the crisis of the beginning of the ‘900 to the rebirth of the Etna wine tradition

The invasion of phylloxera at the beginning of 1900, which caused the destruction of 80% of the vineyards in Europe, affected also Sicily and Etna. Only a few vines survived the invasion. The production decreased dramatically; furthermore, despite the use of rootstock (base and roots of certain varieties of species coming from America, immune to phylloxera, on which local vines are implanted), it wasn’t possible to restore all the vineyards.  

This, combined with the frequent eruptions of Etna, led to a significant reduction of the land dedicated to viticulture, 40.000 hectares: a little less half than the end of the century. 

Nonetheless, despite all the difficulties caused by both environmental and historical factors, from the second half of the XX century, the Etna viticulture began to grow again. On August 11th, 1968 is recognized the Controlled Denomination of Origin, becoming, the first DOC of Sicily and one of the oldest in Italy. Starting from the ’90s, thanks also to new investors, local, national, and international, the interest in the local Etna wines increased considerably. The Etna wine is now considered in all respects an international excellence.

In this scenario, begins the story of Emilio Sciacca Etna Wine; a relatively young winey, but driven by a deep love for Etna wine tradition, which has its roots in the ancient Palmento Martinella.