The volcanic soil of Etna DOC wines

Andrea Vadalà · 8 April 2020 · News

Terroir’s concept

The volcanic soil of etna DOC wines is very important for the Etna’s terroir.

The term terroir, pron. teru̯àr from french, is almost untranslatable in Italian and may be erroneously confused with the concept of wine territory. However wine experts have been trying for centuries to define this polysemic word,  that by now it has acquired even philosophical meanings.

For simplicity we want to consider it as the combination of natural, agricultural, oenological and anthropic factors that allow the creation of a specific and identifiable product through its unique characteristics.

The hand of the man represents without any doubts an important component of this complex whole. For example, the local wine-making tradition: from the way in which the viticulture is created to the way in which the wine is promoted and much more, result its own uniqueness thus contributing to the specific terroir.

The terroir as “ecosystem”

The natural factors that belong to the concept of terroir are however points of immediate comprehension as climate, geographical position, rainfall, altitude and clearly the soil in which Is cultivated the vine.

As a consequence, the terroir could be assimilated to the concept of ecosystem, a notion very important for us, in which man with his traditions and applications makes up the qualifying factor of the final product. But this is precisely the natural aspect of this system that represents the cornerstone that can never be relocated: the maximum uniqueness of a terroir, the element always and absolutely inimitable.

Right on Mount Etna, thousands of years of powerful eruptions, complex transformations, and volcanic events that are still active today, have made the soil where the vine born, the unifying product of that exclusive. As a consequence, this becomes the founding heritage of a wine even more famous throughout the world

The areal of Etna DOC

The Etna wine-growing and wine-producing area, with a “DOC” extension of 23,000 hectare, develops in the foothills of the volcano. In addition, sometimes, powerful successions of basaltic lavas are intercalated to deposits stemming from the explosive phase of the eruptions ( Pyroclastic products). Subsequently, in this, the soil structure has an inorganic skeleton different from the soil resulting from the alteration of the lavas.

Extract from the geological map of Etna with the area of Etna DOC wines
Extract from the geological map of Etna with the area of Etna DOC wines

Furthermore, this is both because the explosive character of the volcano has been more significant in recent geological eras, such as between 18000 and 15000 years ago. In addition because from a geographical point of view you can find yourself near one of the hundreds of recent adventitious cones (lateral craters) that enrich specific portions of land in pyroclastic deposits. These cinder cones have very different ages, from tens to hundreds to thousands of years. On Etna, just a few dozen years of pedogenesis to create the inorganic basis of soil formation, and therefore today these extinct craters surrounding the volcano often appear magnificently terraced and cultivated with vines.

The geology of terroir of Etna

Therefore, it is easy to see how the Etna is extremely variable both in age and composition, exactly as the geological formations that compose it. We bund all the information available by the Etna municipalities, Sicily’s region, the Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini Etna D.O.C. . As a result, we have created and Geo-referenced  a geological map of Etna (Branca et Ali, 2014). To sum up, in this map there is indicated the area of the “DOC” with all the geological formations that it underlies.

In conclusion, you can download the complete geological map with the Etna DOC perimeter at this address:

More articles about this topic “Il suolo piroclastico dell’Etna” e “La geologia dei vini doc dell’Etna