This is a real mysterious gem on the slopes of Mt Etna wine region! Navigation kept making fun of us taking to different dirt roads, which were accessible only if you are a donkey or a truck. But at the end we found the right spot on the map - it was an impressive dark grey mansion, without any indications of being a winery. Nevertheless, I rung the bell, and surprisingly we were at the right place.
No advertisement is needed, when 80% of your wines made of 100 years old vines and you produce only 90 000 bottles. All of which are premium class wines of Etna.
Pietradolce's history begun in 2005 with the beginning of new era in Etna wine making. Benanti, Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Pietradolce and a bunch of other today's 'grands' of Mt Etna started their wine ventures those years.
The owner, Michele Faro, comes from a family which was always connected to agriculture. They come from Etna and his grandfather was a small wine producer himself, selling it in bulk. Michele's family owns a tremendous exotic plant nursery, and in 2005 they decided to invest in vines and wines.
Patch by patch the current Pietradolce vineyard was created. The parcels are really small, and sometimes in between their plots you can see land still managed by farmers (probably very resistant ones, as land on Etna DOC becomes more and more expensive). In total, Pietradolce is 11 hectares of mostly pre Phylloxera vineyards, producing just 90 000 bottles a year.
The vines are mostly pre-phylloxera ones, proudly standing on their original European rootstocks, trained traditionally in alberello bushes.
The vines are mostly pre-phylloxera ones, proudly standing on their original European rootstocks, trained traditionally in alberello bushes. The elevation is high, the yield is low, but here the quantity was never a target. From the very beginning, Pietradolce committed to produce only the best wine. Their aim is to recover a taste of wine from the 19th century, made by careful farmers with minimum intervention and no heavy oak. Just like Michele's ancestors did.
the vineyards are cultivated organically and all works done by hand
That's why the vineyards are cultivated organically and all works done by hand. Well, even if they ever wanted to use machinery it would be almost impossible. The vines are planted very close to each other, a person can barely walk in between their bushes. Some hundreds years ago they were planted everywhere, even on stones. The volcano covered so much of the soils with lava, that people learned to use the land efficiently. That's how the terraced amphitheater vineyards were born. Half-round, surrounded with walls built of black lava stones. This is a must see on your Etna wine route!
All this is done to increase not only space, but also sun exposure. At 900 m elevation you have to ensure the grapes will ripe. The black lava stones, just as the black lean sand absorb the heat during the day and prolong the ripening process during night. The terraced 'anfiteatro' planting and 'alberello' style training ensures the grapes are never in shade.