Alberto Aiello Graci
has been making wine on Sicily's Mount Etna
since 2004, the year he returned from his apprenticeship as a Milan banker, picking up the baton with 5 hectares of family land, 2 hectares of which is vineyards (the rest polycultural activities).
The region of Etna Rosso
, famous for its black lava soils and elegant red wines
made from the Nerello Mascalese
and Cappuccio grapes
, has been undergoing a revival since 2000, lured by juicy EU grants and spectacular scenery. Once carpeted with vines - the fruit of which was allegedly used to in bulk to prop up the wines of the Langhe and of Burgundy - it has now become an artisan's playground, a mix of hobbyist and commercial winegrowers.
Alberto Graci is definitely in the latter category; his feet firmly on the ground. As the Vice President of the Consorzio, that covers 300 hectares of Etna DOC, he's forever preoccupied with the quality of the wines now being produced (at yields still as high as 65hl/ha).
His patch of heaven is part 50 year old, 8500 high density, free-standing 'alberello' vines at 1000 metres above sea level that produce naturally low yields amid the black grainy soils, part younger trained vines on flatter, lower sandier terra. He prefers to tend his vines as naturally as possible.
Fermentation takes place in a combination of large cement and Austrian Stockhinger oak of 42hl, at ambient (30-35 celsius) temperatures, using wild yeast, before moving the wine into slightly smaller Gamba barrels. He seeks the reductive quality of large oak, that captures the character of the soil and fruit, rather than the stylistic effects of micro-oxygenation brought by French barriques.
His two wines are the earlier drinking Etna Rosso
and the more structured Quota 600:
a 500 case production of only Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio
, lush and lithe.