8-13 March, 2022
Wines Native to Volcanoes - Part 1. Etna Wine Tour
There are places that flip your whole world upside down. For me, Etna is one of those places. Tropics down in Catania, t-shirts, and shorts in March, and then snow and skiing groups ascending the mountain, actually, a volcano. Petrified lava all along the driveway, plots covered with lava, then bulldozers breaking down the stones on the next plot to make it suitable for agriculture again. People building their life on a mountain that can explode at any time. And they've been doing it countless times and will continue to do so, because IDDA, the local name for Mt. Etna, is not a threat, but a powerful lady that they look up to with affection and respect.
So what kind of wines would you expect to come from a vineyard at 1000 meters above sea level? From a vineyard that doesn't have "normal" soil, but rather a pumice - black volcanic sand, and lots of stones with such a unique content list mixed into the hot lava flow.
To answer this question we will visit 4 wineries at the highest altitudes suitable for winemaking, we will see old, more than a hundred years old vines, that observed not only change of centuries, owners, but also a number of explosions on IDDA. These vines are ungrafted, they're planted before the deadly for European viticulture phylloxera broke out, these vines (protected by the terroir of Etna) were not affected by the disease that had no mercy in most of Europe.
So ungrafted vines, traditional terrace vineyards lined with lava stones, mostly organic agriculture, and one of the finest and most elegant wines that whole Italy has to offer. And well, Italian cuisine at its' best, the Sicilian sun and already holiday-mood coast, the best cannoli on Earth and a farm hotel in a historical mansion to sleep all this over on the slopes of Etna.
If there's one wine region that you should see in a lifetime that's Etna. Here's your chance. And that's how we'll do it.
#wineryvisits #winemakerdinners #cookingworkshop #Etnahike #horseriding #oliveoiltasting #boattour #sicilianwinetasting #undergrounddining
During the Etna wine tour, we'll get even closer than vines to the hot craters of Etna. We'll start with vineyards at 700 meters altitude and get as high as the Etna DOC permits as, up to 1100 meters. We'll stay at an authentic Sicilian villa that dates back to 14th century when it used to be a Benedictine friary. Some of the rooms were converted from the old grape stomping facilities. We'll eat delicious homemade food by a local chef (no tourist trap pizza here :) and even cook a meal or two together to take not only wines but also recipes back home.
We'll visit four wineries to taste the best of Carricante, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio. But since it's Italy we must spare some time for enjoying la dolce vita - we'll have a sunset horseback ride on the slopes of Etna, do an olive oil tasting, get out to Siracusa on a boat ride and, well, enjoy some more wines, of course, during an Etna wine tasting dinner with a presentation by a famous Sicilian Sommelier to understand the contrasts between North and South Etna. We will also have an overall Sicilian wine tasting organized by a local certified wine expert to learn about the Sicilian wine regions - all at once!
We'll spare some time for the most important highlight of the region - the Etna National Park, and get even higher than the vines grow on a
off-road driving tour on jeeps, and then during a hike to the craters of Etna with a professional guide.
Expect unexpected. Some of the wineries on our route are literally non-existent on maps, so some off-road driving will be necessary (alternatively, you might want to switch to donkey-back:)
This tour is for healthy and fit wine lovers, that don't mind to get their shoes dirty in volcanic pumice and are open to get on a hike even on a wine tour.
#checkin #farmhotel #cannoli #cookingworkshop
8th March 2022, evening
Meeting point: we meet in Catania city center
No matter where you come from, all our wine group meets in Catania for a cup of espresso and a cannoli to start with and set our minds to the Italian pace :)
We check in to our cozy and authentic Sicilian farm hotel - a historical mension that dates back to 14th century right on the slopes of the Etna volcano. Our hotel has its' own organic certified farm so almost everything we'll find on the table is not only local and organic but literally homegrown and homemade. We will be surrounded by lemon, orange and olive trees - imagine waking up to this tranquility in the morning!
Here, after a day of flights and transits, we'll all rest our minds and bodies, and spoil our palate at a classical Sicilian dinner prepared by ... ourselves guided by our Italian hosts :) We will spend a lot of time together during our Etna Wine Tour so it will be good to learn each other at a place where most honest conversations happen - in the (Italian!) kitchen.
Day 2, morning
#wineryvisits #etnaroute #lunchbreak
9th March 2022, morning
After having breakfast at our farm hotel we will leave to our first winery on the list - a personal favourite of mine with 100+ year old Nerello Mascalese vines, that are ungrafted, growing as bush wines at 700 meters above sea level. An organic certified winery with a tiny boutique production and lots of international awards.
Our host will show us the diverse vineyards scattered around different corners of Etna. Each of them with a unique soil composition - some with pure black pumice, others with vines growing in nothing but rocks. We'll speak about the history and culture of Etna, about the revival of fine winemaking on Europe's most furious volcano.
Now it's time to taste the difference! We'll taste the wines that come from the vineyards we've just seen and analyze the differences in taste caused by each terroir. We will taste the best single-vineyard wines of the estate during this exclusive tasting.
Once our tasting is over we'll make a lunch break - at a classical Sicilian restaurant, right on the Etna Wine Route.
Day 2, afternoon
#wineryvisits #oliveoiltasting #dinner
9th March 2022, afternoon
After tasting the most classical expressions of Etna we must visit a pioneer of natural wine making. A winery that has been established when the volcanic wines of Sicily were still undiscovered and followed the principles of letting nature and Etna lead the way since the first vintage.
Taste the difference, again and again!
The goal here is to reflect the terroir of every contrada (cru zone) and let Etna tell the story of its' vines.
No additives in wines and no treatments whatsoever in the vineyards or surrounding orchards.
After the tasting we're done for the day, except for... an incredible dinner that already waits for us at our Sicilian farm hotel and a guided olive oil tasting (the olive oil is organic certified and made from olives grown on our hotel's farm).
Day 3, morning
10th March 2022, morning
After having breakfast surrounded by live examples of how generous volcanic soil can be, we leave to catch the morning tasting with another "star" on the slopes of Northern Etna.
This winery is literally hidden in the donkey trails and once we arrive at their gate you won't believe it's a place where wine is produced, it's rather a mansion of an architect inspired by Etna.
The winemaker will meet us and we'll take a walk in the vineyards seeing century-old vines grown on "amphitheater" shaped terraces, built out of lava rocks. Everything is centered around the impressive winery building, the production is so limited that you'll unlikely see these wines in any wine store on Earth.
We'll see the diverse winemaking facilities - they experiment here with all sorts of vessels, stainless steel, cement, oak of different origin, size and roast.
Visiting the tasting rooms and wine libraries here is an esthetic experience on its' own with artist-made items on every corner.
Day 3, afternoon
10th March 2022, afternoon
After tasting their wines we'll leave for lunch and set our minds for a completely different activity - a sunset horseback ride on the slopes of Etna!
That's not something you'd expect on a wine tour, but that's something that will make you feel this island on an island (that's what they call Etna) much better, almost like a local*
Hungry, tired but happy we'll have a dinner and wine tasting by a well-known sommelier, native to Etna, at a superb local restaurant on the Etna Wine Route.
*Of course, if you don't feel like horse riding you can skip this activity and have the afternoon for own plans and discoveries :)
** No previous horse riding experience is required.
#Etnahike #Etnaoffroaddrive #volcanotour #EtnaNorth #EtnaSouth #wineryvisit
11th March 2022
Today after our traditional breakfast on the terrace of our farm hotel surrounded by olive and lemon trees we'll leave on an adventure - an off-road drive and hike in the Etna National Park.
Have you been to the moon? Well, if you've been you'll feel like you are there again :) We will reach 2800 meters altitude (by jeep :) and set on a hike to see some of the active craters of the spectacular Mt. Etna.
To recharge we will stop for some local snacks and then continue to explore the mysteries of Europe's most furious volcano.
We will visit a cave inside Etna to understand what happens when the lava leaves the surface and flows inside the ground.
Worry not, we will have a professional Etna guide to accompany us on this adventure!
We will finish the hike by drinking espresso and overlooking Etna in all her greatness and then rush to catch the winemaker at an organic winery on the other corner of Etna and taste the wine flights of the day before sunset.
For dinner we rest and enjoy the peaceful ambience of our farm hotel (our feet deserve some rest after the day!) and take some time to observe the peaceful serenity of the nature surrounding such a furious volcano.
Day 5, morning
#Siracusa #boattour #seacaves #Ortigia
12th March 2022, morning
Today we'll disconnect from the volcanic ambience and head down to Siracusa - you haven't been to Sicily unless you spent a day in Siracusa and the Ortigia island.
We'll have a boat tour here to see this ancient city from the sea and afterwards you'll have enough free time to enjoy its' historical landmarks or simply wander along the picturesque streets, buy spices at the local market or enjoy la dolce vita and do some people watching while sipping your espresso.
Day 5, afternoon
#undergrounddinner #undergroundriver #Sicilianwinetasting
12th March 2022, afternoon
We will meet early afternoon and have a tasting that will introduce us to all Sicilian wines except for the ones coming from Etna :) A local Sicilian wine expert will present us 6 wines that come from different corners of this hot island - the famous Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Siciliy's only DOCG), Sicily's signature variety - Nero d'Avola from Noto, the red blends from Faro, and even the sweet wines from the distant Pantelleria, that's closer to Africa than to Sicily.
We will return to Etna in the evening to have a special dinner to celebrate the end of our tour.
How about a meal in an underground restaurant looking over a river that got buried by the lava at one of the Etna explosions? The river keeps flowing underground and we'll have a table right next to it.
Worry not, you'll have the best dining experience with local meals and wines by the river that exists only for the ones who dare to step underground :)
Tour Dates: 8-13 March 2022
Cost: 1600 EUR/person
Due to wineries' regulations, all participants must present a valid certificate of COVID vaccination/green pass.
accommodation, double occupancy: 5 nights*
wine tastings: 4 premium winery visits with wine tastings and 1 wine tasting dinner with presentation by a famous Sicilian sommelier
Sicilian Wine Tasting to cover all the wines of this island, like Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Noto, Faro, so that our palates go beyond Etna
transfer by VIP minibus all the way through the tour
all breakfasts (5 breakfasts)
all lunches except on Day 4 - during the Etna Offroad Tour and Day 5 - in Siracusa.
all dinners (5 dinners), including the dinner in an underground restaurant and dinner with wine tasting by a Sicilian Sommelier
Guided tour to Etna National Park on Day 4, off-road driving by jeep, and hike to the craters with a professional guide
Sunset horseback ride on Day 3
Organic live oil tasting
Cooking Workshop (a fun and informative team building to get to know each other)
* there's a surcharge for single occupancy
What's not included:
your flights/trains etc to get to Catania and back home
wines or any souvenirs that you might want to purchase
additional activities that you'll decide to do
lunch in Siracusa
consumption at hotel's minibars etc.
Deadline for bookings: 7th February 2022
Advance payment to secure booking: 800 EUR/person
The remaining amount is to be paid a maximum of one month before the tour start date.
Group: max 15 people
For the tour to be confirmed a minimum number of 10 people must book before the deadline.
P.S.: you might want to stay in Sicily before or after our tour. And I totally understand you :) Mention this in your booking and let me know if you need recommendations on where to stay, what to do, how to get around and where to dine & wine.
13th March 2022, morning
Last breakfast at the Sicilian farm hotel, it already became home to us, so tough to say goodbye, let's say instead a presto.
We will take you to the centre of Catania, and we might stop there for an espresso and cannoli, perhaps to mark the end of this adventurous wine tour that involved so much more than wine. By day 6, you'll practically feel like a Sicilian.
Please fill out the contact form below to book this tour or request more information
Why Book your wine tour with Terroir Journey?
Hi, my name is Henrietta, I'm a WSET Certified Wine Educator, the founder of Terroir Journey and a wine travel guide. Organizing wine tours and travelling to wine regions is the most favourite of all my jobs!
I believe that every wine region must preserve the unique and native to its' land and history grape varieties. For me viticulture is first and foremost CULTURE and it is our intangible heritage that we must take care of.
In the wine tours that I organize across Europe we always focus on producers that share the idea of being loyal to their history, culture and grapes.
Therefore, in all my wine tours you can expect to visit wineries that are:
producing wines in a sustainable way using organic and biodynamic practices (if a winery is not certified but is on the itinerary it means that I personally ensured that their production is aligned with at least organic certification standards).
using grape varieties that are native to their regions (for example, not Sangiovese from Etna, but Nerello Mascalese).
making wines of very good to outstanding quality, because as one wise winemaker in France told me "it's not enough to be biodynamic, you should also make good wine". And that's so true because as a wine lover you want to drink good wine, not just wine that is Earth-friendly!
Some of the wineries we will visit on our wine tours are established, have impressive tasting rooms, onsite restaurants, guides etc.
Others are boutique and family run, have little stuff and it will be usually the owner who'll give us the tour.
We might as well end up tasting wines right next to the fermentation tanks or next to the barrels.
My wine tours are for people that do want to see the real story behind the label and don't mind getting their shoes muddy in the vineyards.
Do you want to learn, see and experience how wine is made, by whom, where, from what?
then join my wine tours - we're a perfect match
with you :)
contact me for more information
or a custom wine tour