Volcanic Inheritance: Etna Bianco & Rosso from Girolamo Russo

Volcanic Inheritance: Etna Bianco & Rosso from Girolamo Russo

The terroir of Mount Etna is like no other — where Santorini, in our previous story, is also volcanic, it sits nearly at sea level, and its vines are veritably doused in sunlight. Etna soars high above the rest of Sicily; some of Europe's highest elevation vineyards are here.
 
This high altitude, combined with mineral-rich volcanic soils provide an exceptional environment for growing grapes. Small farmers or contadini have tended vines on Etna’s steep, windy slopes for generations, adapting their vineyard practices to the challenges of extreme conditions.
 
This active volcano continues to be shaped by the layering of lava flows — a notable eruption occurred just a few weeks ago. Etna’s crus, or contrade, are defined by the age, depth and distinct mineral composition of these flows.
 
Winemakers and consultants from all over Italy and beyond have made their way to Etna, and the island saw a resurgence in its wine culture in the '90s and '00s. But a more inspiring twist in Etna’s wine renaissance has been a renewed interest among locals in their own viticultural heritage.
 
After the death of his father, Girolamo, Giuseppe Russo returned to the contrade of Passopisciaro, on the north face of Etna. Farming organically, and maintaining rigorous traditional vineyards practices, he began bottling his wines under the label Girolamo Russo. Today the estate comprises 15 hectares planted to indigenous varieties such as Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and Carricante.
 
Giuseppe’s single vineyard bottlings from old, ungrafted vines in the high altitude contrade of San Lorenzo, Feudo and Feudo di Mezzo are among the finest Etna has to offer. Combining aromatic purity and mineral depth, these are stunning representations of volcanic terroir. A’ Rina and Nerina are from younger vines in these exceptional contrade. While the single vineyard bottlings benefit from additional cellar time, these village level wines, crafted with the same care and attention, offer immediate pleasure.
 
Girolamo Russo “a’ Rina” Etna Rosso, 2018
Nerello Mascalese reaches profound levels of aromatic purity in Etna’s brisk mountain air. Giuseppe’s village level red offers layers of vibrant cherry, mint and wild strawberry fused by driving minerality. A’ Rina (sand in local dialect) is mainly from younger vines in the San Lorenzo, Feudo and Calderara Sottana contrade. Some fruit from over 100 year old vines adds depth and concentration to this snapshot of Passopisciaro terroir.
 
Girolamo Russo “Nerina” Etna Bianco, 2019
A blend of 70% Carricante and 30% other native varieties. Carricante's raciness combines with driving volcanic minerality in a uniquely compelling Etna white. Also from younger vines in the San Lorenzo, Feudo and Calderara Sottana Contrade, Giuseppe’s Nerina is a cross section of its terroir, showing washes of citrus, smoke, herbs, sea salt and crushed stone.