A visit to the Etna vineyards Monte Ilice and Carpene

Monte Ilice and Carpene were both owned by Vini Biondi until 2011, at which point Ciro Biondi and his business partner Giuseppe Brancatelli separated.   After the separation, Giuseppe finished up in possession of Monte Ilice and Carpene, and Ciro the vineyards Chianta, San Nicolò, and Cisterna Fuori.  The right to the Biondi company name is now a matter of legal dispute, but it is useful to understand that Giuseppe currently has control of the old Vini Biondi website www.vinibiondi.it, which still seems to reflect the state of the business before the split, while Ciro’s website is www.levignebiondi.it.  I contacted an email address given on www.vinibiondi.it, and so was looked after by Gino Paternò who works with Giuseppe.

We met Gino in Sant’Alfio square in Trecastagni and were land-rovered off to two vineyards, starting with Monte Ilice, shown below, which is significantly higher and steeper than Carpene.  Monte Ilice is very difficult to work. Walking uphill between the vines is very much like climbing a sand dune – your feet constantly slide back in the deep, fine soil.  To make life easier, a cable transportation system was installed for moving goods up and down the hill.

biondi

Note the beauty of the vineyard.  This beauty is not by any means unique on Etna, with many of the good vineyards seemed to including small trees, shrubs and undergrowth, or having them nearby.  See the picture of one of Terre Nere’s for another example. This is not the uniform monoculture of many of the better French vineyards.

To my eye, the soil at Carpene was very similar but, contrary to my expectation, the grapes here ripen later than in Monte Ilice, as the steep slope of Monte Ilice catches the sun, whose warming effect more than compensates for the higher altitude.

Sadly it was not possible to visit the winery or taste the wines, but we were given a present of three wines for later: two Outis whites and one red.  Note that these were both of vintages before Ciro and Giuseppe went their separate ways.   I had already tasted the red last year, and liked it a lot.  Here are notes from that wine and the three gifts, which were all tasted and drunk with a meal.  They probably retail in the UK for between £20 and £25.  You can see that my notes are very different for the same wine.  I never pretend to be a consistent taster, but I do think that in these instances there was some bottle variation.

Etna Rosso DOC, Outis (Nessuno), 2008, 13.5%

I first tasted this in August 2013.  Medium pale tawny garnet. Intense, complex and mature red fruit. Medium high acid. Light. Medium low tannin. A peppermint note. Fruit is vibrant and tangy as well as having some maturity.  Drink now *****

Later on my Etna trip, at La Rocca della Rosa, where we were staying at the time.  Medium garnet.  Fresh mature red fruit.  Medium high acid. Low but detectable tannins. Savoury mature fruit. Sous bois maybe.  Possibly a bit tired ***

Etna Bianco DOC, Outis (Nessuno), 2010, 12.5%

At La Rocca della Rosa. Medium pale gold. Nose difficult in this glass. Medium acidity. Dry. Rich, deep and mature flavours. Orange, apricot. Excellent length. Ginger that is pretty dominant. Other spice too – more obvious as wine warms up.  Drink now ****

Back home, after the trip.   Pale amber gold.  Intense.  Pear maybe.  Very slightly oxidised. Smoky.  Mature.  Medium acidity.  Dry.  Excellent length, with smoky finish. Drink now.  Significantly more oxidation the following day ****

About Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast
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