Etna Rosso: Wine from the Slopes of an Active Volcano #ItalianFWT

Volcanic Wines Erupt on #ItalianFWT
This month, our Italian Food Wine & Travel group is exploring the topic of Volcanic Wines from Italy. Cruise down further in this post to see what my fellow Italophiles have posted, and if you see this in time, join our chat. Saturday, Sept. 3 at 10am CDT look for the #ItalianFWT hashtag on Twitter. We love visitors!

Valle Galfina Etna Rosso and Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso

The grapes for Etna Rosso wines are grown on the slopes of an active volcano, Mt. Etna.

The Mystery of Mt. Etna – Active Volcano and Vineyard
On our first Italian Food Wine & Travel group’s virtual trip through Italy, I fell completely in love with Sicily. A very large island off the toe of Italy’s boot, Sicily offers an incredible variety of landscapes, seaside, grapes, and foods. After all, where else in the world do you eat a gelato filled brioche for breakfast?

I sampled a variety of wines during our first virtual visit to Sicily, and my favorite, head and shoulders above the rest, was Etna Rosso. Imagine a red wine which has some similarity to both Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you might expect to taste.

Fast Facts about Etna Rosso

  • Etna Rosso is a light to medium bodied red wine, made from Nerello Mascalese (at least 80%) and Nerello Capuccio. These grapes are native to Sicily.
  • The entire Etna Rosso DOC area is located on Mt. Etna, the only active volcano with vineyards on its’ slopes.
  • Volcanic Soil – Mt Etna is in a near constant state of eruption bringing new lava flows, everchanging soil due to new soil deposits from the plume.  The soil is high in mineral nutrients, very rapid draining.
  • The DOC area consists of a semicircle around the N, E & S sides of Mt. Etna at 400-1000m altitude – which is very high altitude for grape growing.
  • The southern location with high altitude means the climate brings hot direct sunlight but cool shade and cold nights. Little rain in summer, snow in winter.
  • Even though the summers are very dry and the soil drains quickly, no irrigation is allowed.
A very refined, single vineyard Etna Rosso, worth every bit of $39

A very refined, single vineyard Etna Rosso, worth every bit of $39

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso DOC “Feudo di Mezzo, Il Quadro delle Rose” 2012 ($39 at South Lyndale Liquors)
Eye: Clear, medium- intensity garnet color, translucent.
Nose: Clean, cedar chest filled with cherries and strawberries. The cedar (oak aging) is in front and could use more time to integrate, although not overdone.
Mouth: Medium body, nice richness and smooth texture. Medium+ acidity, medium+ tannins. Nice long finish of cherries and rosemary. This wine could be enjoyed without food, but loved being at the table.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso paired with grilled chicken and a Sicilian cold cauliflower salad

Grilled Chicken, Insalata di Rinforzo and Etna Rosso
Etna Rosso wines are medium-light to medium bodied, with lively acidity and medium tannins. They are great wines at the dinner table as they can pair nicely with a wide range of foods. Grilled chicken is an excellent choice due to the smoky char present.  I wanted to find a nice Sicilian side dish, and this cauliflower salad was also a delicious choice for the wine.  Its full of olives and the dressing has plenty of anchovies to give the salad a very rich mouthfeel. You’ll appreciate the wine’s acidity as it cleanses your palate between bites.

Budget Alternative
You don’t need to spend $40 to try an Etna Rosso! There are several that are available for under $20! Here’s a second bottle we enjoyed with this dinner.

Valle Galfina is a nice basic Etna Rosso, available for under $20.

Valle Galfina is a nice basic Etna Rosso, available for under $20.

Valle Galfina Etna Rosso DOC 2012 ($18 at South Lyndale Liqours)
Eye: clear, medium garnet. just a touch of haze, possibly unfiltered
Nose: clean, fresh cherries w/ a touch of pine needles underfoot
Mouth: medium- body, medium acidity, medium+ tannins. Nice clean, underripe but very fresh cherries.
This more basic Etna Rosso had a lighter body and was a bit more lean and angular compared to the single vineyard Tenuta delle Terre Nere. It was very nice with food, but might be a bit spare on its’ own. Still, I’d be happy to drink this any day!

More Etna Wines for Your Consideration

The #ItalianFWT Crew Presents…
listed alphabetically by blog name
Insalata de rinforzo is the Sicilian connection in our meal

Insalata de rinforzo is the Sicilian connection in our meal

Insalata di Rinforzo (Cauliflower with Black Olives Salad)

Adapted from a recipe in the excellent “Made in Sicily” by Giorgio Locatelli
There are lots of different versions of this recipe available online, here is another good looking one with a bit of explanation for the recipe.


  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 bunch of scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 can of pitted black olives, olives cut in 1/2
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 6 anchovy fillets (or more, to your taste), chopped finely


  • Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil, blanch the cauliflower in batches, 2 minutes each. Set aside to cool.
  • Hard boil eggs, cool immediately under cold running water.
  • Peel, then smash the clove of garlic
  • Combine the garlic with the parsley leaves and chop together, finely to make a fragrant green topping, set aside in a small bowl.
  • Chop the hard boiled eggs once they are cool.
  • Make the dressing: Whisk together or process in a small food processor the EVOO, white wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, and anchovies.
  • Combine the cauliflower florets, scallions, and olives in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the ingredients and toss thoroughly to coat.
  • Top the salad with the chopped hard boiled eggs and the parsley/garlic mixture
  • Enjoy!

Astronaut Reid Wiseman and Sicily
I still dream of being an astronaut! Reid Wiseman shared a favorite moment of his experience seeing Mt. Etna at night. You can watch it here complete with photos, and the photo below provides a brief introduction.

Italy at night as seen by Astronaut Reid Wiseman (photo courtesy of NASA)

Italy at night as seen by Astronaut Reid Wiseman. Look for the black circle on the island of Sicily. Those are the vineyards where Etna Rosso comes from. The red dot in the center? LAVA! (photo courtesy of NASA)

8 Responses to “Etna Rosso: Wine from the Slopes of an Active Volcano #ItalianFWT”
  1. Vino Travels says:

    Lots of Etna choices, especially the Tenuta delle Terre Nere. Good choice!

  2. TheWiningHour says:

    Nice, quick list of facts about Etna. I love the wines from that region. Your cauliflower salad looks good!

  3. Love the astronaut’s photo! You find some great wines. I’m going to have to try the salad. Yum! Etna Rosso wines are hot right now (no pun intended). As a fan of Pinot & Nebbiolo I enjoy them very much. Cheers

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Etna Rosso: Wine from the Slopes of an Active Volcano by FoodWineClick […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: