Monte Ilice 01

The laborious restoration of the vineyard of Mount Ilice

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Restructuring, recovering the beauty of the past, is something noble if well done, respecting the nature of the object, recovering its soul clouded by time. People renovate houses, old cars, collector’s items. The renovation of vineyards moves on a different level, recovering a small ecosystem, it follows unwritten rules or perhaps written deep inside each of us, it requires the interpretation of ancient energies and imposes a different dynamic thought. In fact, it is necessary to try to remember a different past, never lived, to understand why centuries before us some farmers, who had technologies and knowledge different from ours, made certain planting and cultivation choices, to try to read the history of plants, to understand what they lived, while immobile they watched in silence the changing seasons, while the old ones of yesterday were born, while we, little men, in the midst of a thousand contrasts made wars, landed on the moon, cured diseases, opened new factories obscuring the sky.

The restructuring of a vineyard deals with living matter, and universal relations between living beings with different needs, sometimes in contrast with the production of the bunch itself, sometimes in intimate symbiosis. There is no rule or set of laws, one must think of doing the best for something that one day will live beyond those who are recovering it. The first time I climbed the vineyard of Mount Ilice, I had the sensation of being in a sanctuary, I was passing among ancient vines taller than me, vigorous, despite the lack of real care. The day was dark and cloudy, but from the vineyard, you could see the sea. I was struck by the silence that allowed me to listen to the music of nature that enveloped me and that we usually cannot hear, thousands of plants and animals living, breathing together. Splendid music disturbed only by the sound of my footsteps on the volcanic sand.

When, after several months, Don Alfio decided to pass the torch and responsibility for the vineyard on to me, and together we managed to convince all the other owners, I immediately decided to put things in order by removing what had been left there or built without the logic of serving the vines. A cleaning that lasted several months, many days of sweat and several truck trips to take away bricks, nets, irons, bins, old doors, useless things put there who knows why for decades, intrusive human signs to be erased to allow the earth to start breathing again. Once the cleaning was complete, I still didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I had listened to a lot of advice from farmers, agronomists, and oenologists, certainly more technically qualified than me, but the responsibility was mine, and so were the decisions. I spent many hours in the vineyard, alone or with others, I walked so much through the vineyards with Don Alfio, who knew the history of the last fifty years and who had protected with all his physical and economic energy the part of his property, the heart of the vineyard, the strongest and oldest part.

One evening, watching the vines at sunset sitting on the ground at the highest part of the vineyard at about 850 metres above sea level, I decided to follow only two laws, those that filled Immanuel Kant’s soul with ever new and growing admiration and veneration, “the starry sky above me and the moral law within me”. It was necessarily a titanic work, it was necessary to remove all the dry plants, to break the superficial radical apparatus with deep hoeing, to raise all the vines, to equip them with new tutor poles, to rebalance the pruning that in part of the vineyard left the plants with too many shoulders in a logic of quantity more than quality.

Monte Ilice 03The most difficult part was the whole activity aimed at lifting the vines, it lasted about 5 years. You must lift them step by step, dig very well in front and behind the vine, without damaging the roots and then lift them gently a little at a time. The following year repeat the same operation and lift them a little more until the plant became parallel to the tutor post.
I discovered some vines under mountains of brambles, they continued to produce bunches even though they had been abandoned for decades. I decided to transfer them to explanting them in more appropriate areas of the vineyard. A very delicate but successful operation, not one of them died.

The Etnean bush-trained system imposes a tutor post per plant, strictly in chestnut wood from the stumps of the Etna woods. I chose posts of two meters, given the size of the plants and in the hope of repeating this investment as late as possible. We waited for the waning moon of January and February to rationalize pruning, remove excess shoulders, and re-establish the leaf surface/bunch ratio. Don Alfio has never pruned with a crescent moon to “not make the vines weep”, in fact, the lunar gravity would lead to a loss of sap from the vines, and in a vineyard with young volcanic soil, without clay and therefore water retention like Mount Ilice this would involve an excessive effort for the vines that would risk suffering especially in view of potentially dry seasons.

Monte Ilice 04We carried out soil analysis in different parts of the vineyard, given its conformation it was natural to find great inhomogeneity and the objective was not to eliminate it, but only to know it. We carried out strictly organic fertilization to allow the vines that had endured the strain of lifting and more invasive pruning to resume their natural cycle. The soil on my side of Mount Ilice is strengthened by a nitrogen base due to the natural green manure of wild lupine, and a field beans that have been growing probably from centuries, we have to maintain and integrate them.

The ancients, in order to maintain the vineyards, substituted the dead vines, the failed plants, with wild ones that they would then graft taking the best genetic material from the vineyard itself, or in many parts of Etna, they challenged phylloxera by reproducing ungrafted plants with the method of the offshoot. I replaced almost all the failures, with small new vines of nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio, reproducing them exclusively from the oldest pre-phylloxera vines in the vineyard. When working on the restoration of an ancient vineyard, we must forget the time horizon that our biology imposes on us and dilate the times in a multigenerational perspective. When these vines will be a hundred years old, perhaps the harvest will be done by my son’s children, or by someone else who will have the vineyard in his heart as I do. Others will spend entire weeks from August to October in a thousand worries, waiting for the dawn of the harvest.

Monte Ilice 05That’s why choices must be made that will bear fruit in the long run. After five years of sacrifice, I am sure I have helped the vineyard to regain the energy of the past, the vines have acquired a more beautiful colour, a different light, they are almost aware that for another generation cycle someone will take care of them. Deep down, I have dedicated every effort of this restoration to Don Alfio, I would like him to see how much joy there is now among his ancient vines in his sanctuary, even if in the end I think that he never really left the vineyard, but he continues to live there, on Mount Ilice.

sonia con il figlioletto

I’m back!

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The life of a blogger could be hard! In fact, I have never thought about being a blogger, my aim was to write a small diary to remember and share all of the splendid moments, or not, that my work gave me.I had promised myself to write, even only a few words for every relevant moment of my life as wine producer on Mount Etna. But I couldn’t manage to keep the promise.

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Wine and Food Academy Awards 2015

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We are honoured for having received our “virtual statue”, thanks to the article published on Luciano Pignataro’s very influential website.

Referring to our Millesulmare, made with Grecanico Dorato year 2012, the author Fabio Panci states the following:

I discovered it almost by chance during the last Vinitaly and it changed my personal tasting standards for white wines. It caught me totally wrong-foot. Surprising.”

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The Best Tomato Pasta in the World!

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Where can you eat the best tomato pasta?

Naples, Catania, Florence?

No, in Kyoto! It seems impossible, but that’s the truth. And the secret is simple: you just have to add the proverbial attention, or better obsession, for the research of the ingredients that the Japanese Chefs put in each one of their dishes, to the passion, creativity and experience of one of the best Italian Chefs abroad, Valentino Palmisano,

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Langosteria 10: the Best Fish Restaurant in the Heart of Milan!

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Being I a true Sicilian woman and having lived almost my whole life close to the sea, I have always loved eating fresh fish at the restaurants along the sea of my Island.

I still recall the wonderful smell of Sicilian fish, prepared in a simple and refined way as our food tradition requires, its intense taste, its perfect elegance exalted by a paring with a Grillo, a Carricante, or a mineral Grecanico Dorato, with its polished sapidity that perfectly balances its taste and structure.

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The Best Italian Restaurant in Prague: Hostaria!

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Praha matka měst, the mother of all cities: that is how Prague’s two million citizens nickname it. Prague is a unique city, suspended between history and innovation, rich in charm and refined elegance.

Praga ImmagineGoing back to Prague after so many years was a great emotion since my blurred memories couldn’t do justice to the artistic and cultural heritage of the old city (one of the most beautiful places amongst the World Heritage sites). Its timeless charm is disarming to say the least, but Prague is also much more than this.

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A Legend in Florence

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In Florence there is one of the best restaurants in the entire Italy, Leggenda dei Frati, set in the charming scenery of Villa Bardini, its park and its museum, where a lucky onlooker can experience the Renaissance charm that characterizes the whole complex.
The sight is unbelievable, to say the least. From there one can see the entire city, elegant and full of wonderful energy.

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“A Wine Tasting at 1000 Meters of Altitude with the Wines of the Etnean Winery SantaMariaLaNave.”

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On Saturday, January 16, we were guest of Tuscanative in Arezzo and spent a wonderful evening at a tasting of our wines, Millesulmare 2013 and 2014 and the Calmarossa 2014. We were completely charmed by the dishes that Chef Luigi Casotti came up with and prepared with love to specially match our wines, after he had tasted them with great care. An extraordinary food and wine matching to say the least! Read More

The Most Expensive Champagne in the World!

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Producing a Classic Method on Mount Etna is an intimate and natural desire, given the qualities of the volcanic soil and of the indigenous vine varieties, already in 1870 the Baron Felice Spitaleri di Muglia produced the first bottle of Champagne Etna, thus giving birth to the experimentation of sparkling winemaking on the volcano. This recurring idea swirls in the head of all the Etnean producers, who are aware of the minerality, the sapidity and the bright sourness of Carricante and of Nerello Mascalese vinified in white. They understand its potential, which can be “triggered” by a second fermentation in bottle!

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LA NAVE ON MT ETNA – UNCORKED AND CULTIVATED

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The very famous Master of wine in Australia, Peter Scudamore, during his wine and food tour in Sicily, he has could visit the great Volcano Etna, famous wineries, and the place where we have our vineyard, contrada LA NAVE at 1.100 meters above sea level. I want to say thank you to Peter for his article about Etna wines, and about LA NAVE and our Millesulmare of grecanico dorato  that he has described with great competence and passion.

This is an extract of Peter Scudamore’s article:

LA NAVE ON MT ETNA

“The latest addition to my Mount Etna wineosphere is the brilliant white wine from the winery Santa Maria La Nave: grown on the northern slopes of the mountain.

This exciting part of Sicily continues to capture and allure international writers and sommeliers. It has to be the elevation that these local indigeneous varieties enjoy. There is freshness and a joy in the mouth. Don’t miss it!

This Santa Maria La Nave Millesulmare 2014 Sicilia DOC is special in colour: it has luminosity in the glass, masses of quartz-green glints, excellent lustre of a wine with pearl shell gloss; it “winks” at you.

Millesulmare 2014 Peter Scudamore

 

The taste works a treat; and the aromas are not overt, just muted citrus and lemon rind; subtle, no more.

The  citrus meet on the palate, and the sensation you  find is one of linearity of acidity that goes on for ever. Note the acid succulence, respond to the salivary senses and detect the peak when the lemon essence and lemon grass acid flavours start fading. Should take ten seconds.

These vines have been around for some time but Riccardo is yet to tell me how long.

Now they are being curated and carefully propagated by massal extension, using the old process of burying one unpruned cane of an old vine into the next vine space to start re-growth. Some call the process layering.

So the vineyard must have gaps from vines which have died; now they are being replaced using a very meticulous plan.

These Etna whites have shrill acidity, and slim body, generally irrespective of the variety. They are naturally minerally, merely responding to their terroir.

Peter Scudamore-Smith MW visited  Sonia Spadaro Mulone and Riccardo Mulone in Milan to interview for this project; and served this Grecanico Dorato 2014 at the opening evening dinner of Uncorked and Cultivated Sicily Wine and Food Tour 2015 in Taormina..”

 

For the whole article go to: http://uncorkedandcultivated.com.au/la-nave-on-mt-etna/#!prettyPhoto

Millesulmare 2013: “A Jewel of wine!” 4.7points/5

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In August, while we were on Mount Etna, we have received a message from SalvyBigNose, a sommelier/blogger, who lives in Scotland. SalvyBigNose had heard about our Millesulmare and, being in Sicily for his holidays, he wanted to buy few bottles for have a proper wine tasting. SalvyBigNose showed an incredible dedication, because he spent several hours in his car to come to Mount Etna and find our bottles. We appreciated his competence and his deep knowledge on Etna Wines, and we admired his deep passion for wine.

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A Vineyard’s memories…on Mount Etna.

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The earth remembers everything, for this reason we have to love her as a human being and she will give us her love back.

A long time ago, vine cultivation and wine production were the principal activities on Mount Etna. The ancient farmers selected the best vines, groomed the challenging lava land to cultivate. They had to clear the stones and build little walls and terraces to overcome the issues created from the Volcano and to cultivate there, where the soil was more fertile.

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