Exploring Mount Etna Wines via Planeta

Posted on: August 28th, 2015 by

Sciara Nuova Vineyard

Is there a more exciting wine region in the world right now than Sicily? And, within this island, anything cooler than what’s happening in the area surrounding Mount Etna?


It was a pleasure to be invited to a lunch given by Planeta, whose six wineries ring Sicily. Our special guest was Alessio Planeta and our focus was on five bottles from their Etna winery, Feudo di Mezzo.

[I’d also like to mention this lunch literally whet my appetite for Sicily as I’ll be headed there at the end of September on a media trip to visit Planeta’s properties. I am mega-stoked!]

Right after this lunch someone asked me which wine was my favorite. I had to be extremely wishy-washy and say, “I loved them all.” Seriously. It’s an impressive lineup. Speaking of, here are the Mount Etna wines I tasted:

Planeta Metodo Classico Brut NV (100% Carricante grapes) $40

What?!? Sparkling wine from Mount Etna. I first tried this in Sicily and fell hard for this bottle of bubbles. Interestingly enough, I was queried if I enjoyed it as much in Seattle. This is always the fear regarding a wine you enjoy while on romantic travels (well, a press trip but the setting was uber-romantic): it will taste (much) better on-site than back at home. I am pleased to report this was not the case. The Planeta Brut was soft like linen, citrusy like lemon curd, and lingering like the ending of a great novel. This Metodo Classico was made for all of the finest fried foods. You can also drink it with abandon on its own.

Planeta Etna Bianco 2014 (100% Carricante) $24

Lively, textured, with richness from the lees stirring (you know, the dead yeast and other grape solids hanging out at the bottom of the juice that get agitated for their pleasure-enhancing qualities) and a portion of the juice hanging out in big-ass barrels. For under $25, hard to think of a more impressive white wine. So cool.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2014 (90% Carricante/10% Riesling) $32

Ok, the vintage is 2014 not 1614. The latter year references the start of a Mount Etna eruption that lasted ten years straight. Whoa. The vineyard where the wine comes from, Sciara Nuova, is pictured at the top of this post. The Eruzione 1614 hangs around on your palate post-imbibe longer than the Etna Bianco and you do get a touch of Riesling-ness as well. Interesting note: the wine area on the label is not Etna but rather Sicily because the grapes are grown at an elevation too high to use the regional appellation name. (Same with the upcoming Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese.)

We also got to try the 2011 version of this wine (95% Carricante/5% Riesling) which was golden, rich, and almost Gewürztraminer-like in its spiciness.

Onto the reds.

planeta etna rosso

Planeta Etna Rosso 2013 (100% Nerello Mascalese grapes) $25

First, this label is awesome. (The white has the same one with yellow instead of red.) Light in color, Pinot-Noir/Nebbiolo-esque, and delicious. Spicy. Seriously, $25? Damn.

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2013 (100% Nerello Mascalese) $35

alessio planeta

Alessio Planeta

The Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese is much richer than the Rosso but certainly not overboard in that department. A wonderful confluence of said riches, zip, and chilled-out tannins. Again, very Nebbiolo-esque. Not like a bruiser of a Barolo, but a Nebbiolo from the broader region of Lange that’s not all pumped-up with added-on brawniness.

We also tried the 2011 which has a nice minty quality to it and, after just a few years in the bottle, is at a beautiful place.

Many of the things Alessio Planeta said stayed with me. Probably the most memorable concerned Sicily as a whole, to try and figure it out not just regarding its wines, but climate, culture, history, and more. “Sicily is like a puzzle,” Planeta explained. “To finish the puzzle is the most difficult thing.” Who will ever put it all together in one lifetime? Maybe no one and certainly not me. But after today I feel like I’ve found a corner piece, am working on the border, and hope to someday fill in the gaps.

All photos courtesy Planeta.


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