2019 Le Sabbie dell’Etna, Etna Bianco, Firriato, Sicily, Italy
(£12.99, 63 branches of Waitrose; £13.02, drinksandco.co.uk)
Etna wine is very much en vogue. It is popping up everywhere and you inevitably have to pay up for the privilege of drinking wines from this north-east corner of Sicily, grown in the surrounds of the great volcano. I am not as enamoured of these wines as many, but I understand their appeal.
It is the lava-rich soils that give the whites and reds such a notable flavour. The intense minerality is unmistakable and it brings with it a dry, grainy, raspy and somewhat peculiar sensation on the back of the palate. It’s like lobbing a few pumice stones into your glass! Etnan whites and reds are usually made from somewhat lacklustre indigenous grapes and the wines that lack intensity seem to submit to their volcanic roots.
But there are a few serious wineries whose wines are genuinely fascinating, benefiting from superb intensity and great balance, and my chosen white is one of the best-value I have tasted in years. Made from local white grapes carricante and catarratto and underpinned with the tell-tale volcanic signature, there is more fruit here that anyone could wish for and the peach and greengage notes are perfectly matched to the sour, pithy minerality.
As more decent wines emerge from Etna, we might be witnessing one of the most welcome renaissances in the modern wine world: viticulture has been practised here since the Neolithic era.
Matthew Jukes is a winner of the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year (MatthewJukes.com)