Today, in early July, our appointment is at the Cottanera Winery. It’s early morning and Winery Tasting Sicily, is on the Catania-Messina highway then on Contrada Iannazzo, near Castiglione di Sicilia. An area of Etna characterized by the harmonious presence of two different, but extraordinarily fascinating worlds. On one side the spectacular volcanic landscape and on the other the beautiful Alcantara river.
We reach Cottanera, after about an hour’s drive, the entrance showcases lush vineyards and olive groves. We park in a panoramic terrace and our gaze extends over the gentle forms of the Nebrodi Mountains. The pink-toned cellar, well set into the landscape, seems to enhance the green open space framed by flowers, cacti and vineyard rows.
Beautiful in its imposing solitude, a large pine tree gives shade to an old wine press and barrels, inviting you to calmly observe the vineyards and Mt. Etna. At this viewpoint we grasp the powerful relationship between the volcano and the wine produced in this area. The wines of Etna, expressing the nature “from Muntagna”, are strong, elegant and austere. Characteristics that we find in the indigenous vines, like as Carricante, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. The terroir, rich in minerals, and the microclimate, with its temperature variations, make the wines of Etna unique.
A glass of Barbazzale Bianco in hand (Catarratto and a small percentages of Viognier) that smells of wisteria and broom, we take a walk with oenologist Fabrizio Fiorino among the rows getting to know the vineyards, history and Cottanera philosophy. The company, founded in 1960, takes the name of an ancient village the near family vineyards, along the bank of the Alcantara river. The Cambria family has always translated the passion for the territory into careful interventions for the care of vines and the selection and harvest of grapes. Activities, in large part, carried out by the women of Cottanera, who with skill and delicate manual skills guarantee respect for the plant and the Etna winemaking tradition. The company, now led by Mariangela, Francesco and Emanuele Cambria, put quality and uniqueness of wine expression of the different Contrade in the first place, is an important safeguard for modern viticulture.
Usually the visit continues to the cellar, but at the moment it’s not possible. We move on to discover the company’s summer wines. The tasting takes place in a large room with sturdy lava stone walls. An environment that combines elegance and strength, creating the right atmosphere to fully appreciate the local food and wines. The large windows of the two rooms that frame the vineyards and Etna are striking, creating naturalistic paintings. We notice it begins to rain; normal in this area of Etna, particularly in the afternoon. Patrizia tells us she’ll take impeccable care of our tasting. She presents us with three wines: Etna DOC Spumante, Etna Rosato Cottanera, Etna DOC White Contrada Calderara.
The Cottanera classic method is an expression, in fine perlage, of pure Nerello Mascalese. This brut conquers us with its citrus notes, the scent of white flowers and the marked minerality. Combined with the selection of semi-mature cheeses, it’s perfect. Cottanera Etna Rosato is pleasantly striking with scents of roses and red fruit, together with the typical flavor of volcanic soil. The onion skin color is obtained with temperature controlled cryomaceration and aging in steel vats on the lees which requires frequent stirring. A sublime rosé in the summer season with cheeses, appetizers and fish dishes. Finally, we taste Etna DOC Bianco from the Calderara district, at 780 meters above sea level, from the particular black pumice and basalt soil. A Contrada, that for 45 years, has hosted the Carricante vineyard that produces the grapes of this wine, whose fermentation takes place in French oak barrels about 40% of the mass; while the remaining part ferments in concrete tanks. A filet of tuna, in a pleasant outdoor dinner, would make the tasting of this wine unforgettable. For the moment we are happy to enjoy the coolness that the summer rain gives us in the cozy Cottanera winery.
In this unique scenario, among the beloved vineyards and in the company of Cesare, the mascot of the company, it is evident the pleasantness that such a day gives to those who want to experience nature in all its beauty and richness, personalizing the experience in the cellar and in the territory with a wine tasting. We love Sicily, but we love this side even more. A side that, if only we could lift the Maya veil of habit and superficiality that often conceals it, could enormously help us on the path of authentic perception of reality. Experiences, like the one at Cottanera are precious. We cut out a day for ourselves and learn to authentically enjoy life.
See you next time! View the wine tourism proposals of the Cottanera winery.