About 1000 years ago, a brutal eruption opened a crater above the village that today is known as Fleri. The lava arrived at the sea, and then submerged into the sea along the coast of Pozzillo. The explosions, instead, created a wonderful volcanic cone, one of the biggest of Mount Etna: Mount Ilice. Thanks to the life forces of Mount Etna, the crater soon became an oasis: the name of Mount Ilice comes from the huge specimens of quercus ilex (holm oaks, that in Sicily are called “ilice”), that soon grew all across the border and inside the fertile crater.
The old farmers soon understood its agricultural potential and started to cultivate it a few centuries after. The soil, made of black volcanic sand and stone chippings, was perfect to grow Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante, Catarratto, and other local grapes that would be used to make Etnean wines. The grapes stayed intact until they were perfectly mature, thanks to the inclination of the crater, its exposure and its sandy soil, and the wine was deemed of high quality and “suited to the navigation” – i.e. it could endure a long sea journey. These characteristics played a critical part in the survival of the vineyard on Mount Ilice through the centuries. The merchants from Riposto’s used to buy the higher quality and more resistant wines at the highest prices, since they could be transported to Northern Italy or to other European country, where the wine was “paid more”.
These highest prices allowed the owner of the vineyards on Mount Ilice to justify the efforts that were required to grow a vineyard in such a difficult territory. Its strong inclination and the softness of the sandy soil forced the winemakers to make “one step forward and two steps back” while working in the vineyard. This volcanic cone was considered extremely suited to this kind of cultivation, so much that a vineyard was planted inside the crater itself. Since it was very difficult to carry the grapes on such a steep terrain, many small palmenti (millstones) were built in various parts of Mount Ilice and in the surrounding area, so the vinification could be performed on site.