Benanti Etna Bianco, Carricante
Viagrande, Etna, Sicily 2017
The true taste of Mt. Etna! Grown on these volcanic slopes for likely centuries, Carricante is now only found here, and so far any other attempts to grow elsewhere have been less than successful. It is prone to sunburn and disease, has a tendency toward low yields and low sugars (= low alcohol) and high acidity. All factors helping point toward its specialized (and rare) status, as (clearly) the rest of the Sicilian wine industry has long been focused on the exact opposite attributes. Yet with the combination of top flight real estate (though admittedly at the whim of a live volcano) and lots of hard work in the vineyard, there are few who doubt the potential for world class greatness from the Carricante grape.
Benanti is the most storied house in the Etna region. Giuseppe Benanti founded his family winery originally as a hobby project in 1988, and has since handed it over to his twin sons, Salvino and Antonio. 1988? These crazy old vines and viticulture had been there for ages, and only then was Etna being recognized as a special place for wine … which today simply seems insane. The grapes that now mark Sicily’s greatest wines; Nerello Mascalese and Carricante are known as such, thanks to this family and others who paved the way. ‘Pietramarina’, their reserve bottling and old vine single vineyard Carricante, is considered one of the very best white wines in all of Italy.