IIn the past centuries, the farmers of Bronte and Maletto cultivated small patches of land in a very fertile area on the North-Western slope of Mount Etna, at 1100 meters of altitude, called Contrada Nave. Contrada Nave, that once was part of the duchy of Horatio Nelson, Duke of Bronte, owes this name to its shape, that resembles a ship. For others, the Contrada’s name originates from a very ancient myth, according to which the God Adranòs obtained from there the chestnut wood he needed to build his ships.
To work the Contrada’s soil one needs a deep knowledge of the climatic changes that take place there and of the plants most suited to the altitude and exposure of its territory. That’s the reason why, through the centuries, farmers have selected the plants and vine varieties that fit in better, obtaining fruits of extraordinary taste. The Nave was a wonderful garden, full of small orchards, vineyards and olive groves. However, large part of this heritage was lost over the course of the years. Many generations passed, involved in other interests. Lots of lands were abandoned. The Government compensations to the farmers for explanting their vineyards did the rest. Our mission at SantaMariaLaNave is to protect the viticulture in this wonderful territory and pass it on to the future generations.
15 years researching ancient, ungrafted clones
In 2000, a local agronomist gave us the inspiration to undertake the wonderful adventure of creating a heroic vineyard in Contrada Nave, in order to safeguard some local vine varieties. For 15 years this agronomist had performed an accurate mass selection of the best plants of Grecanico Dorato and Albanello. All were ungrafted, many of them were abandoned and covered by brambles – just a bunch of them was still thriving in small gardens, thanks to the loving care of the last old and stubborn farmers of the area. In 2004, after a few years of researches, we managed to buy from some local farmers, who could not keep cultivating the land, a series of small adjoining plots, sunny and with a perfect exposure: patches of land that were ideal for a heroic viticulture.