Among the first “strangers” to believe in the potential of Mt. Etna in a period when local viticulture was already in turmoil, Andrea Franchetti decided to invest in the Norther side of A’Muntagna in 2000, buying and restoring an old baglio with an adjacent cellar in Contrada Guardiola, South of the town of Passopisciaro, just below the one thousand meters above sea level which still today marks a key limit for Etna viticulture.
A careful work of recovery and replanting following the traditional techniques of the alberello and the terraces supported by lava stone walls allowed the start of Passopiasciaro, a winery that immediately became a new reference for Etna viticulture exploiting the great work done on an international scale by Tenuta di Trinoro to guarantee visibility to the local production.
As many as 26 hectares cultivated on the Northern slope divided into several parcels, each having its own peculiar characteristics that are been transmitted for years through the so-called “contrada wines”, mono-varietal limited productions that perfectly explain the complexity of the Etna territory, composed of lava layers that occurred over the centuries where the crushed basaltic rock alternates with volcanic sand, ash and lapilli, with substantial differences from parcel to parcel and even within the same parcel.
If on the one hand the geological history of this territory is great and still continues to be written as Mt. Etna is a volcano in full activity that irrigates the vineyards with a frequency sand and ash rains, also great is the history of viticulture, which is lost over the millennia and which, getting closer, still allows today to cultivate centenary ungrafted vines thanking to a soil that over time has guaranteed a natural defense against phylloxera.
The eclectic and visionary figure of Andrea Franchetti has always been perfectly married to Etna, where his viticulture has focused on the maximum exaltation of the most representative vine, the Nerello Mascalese to which 20 of the 26 hectares of Passopisciaro are dedicated, flanking it with various non-native varieties, from a mountain Chardonnay grown up to a thousand meters above sea level to an unexpected combination of Petit Verdot and Cesanese di Affile, the latter a grape from Lazio region well known by Franchetti that grows on volcanic soils as well.
Not only the parcels from which dedicated wines come from such as Guardiola, Passo Chianche, Chiappemacine, Sciaranuova, Rampante and Porcaria, but also other territories contributing to the red blend proposed by Passopisciaro, such as Malpasso, Arcuria, Favazza and Santo Spirito are all the evidence of the fragmentation of Etna viticulture, aimed to take the best out of the different personalities of the single territories thanks to the composition of the lava soil, the microclimate of the altitude and the exposure of the vineyard.
Passopisciaro is a splendid winery of Mt. Etna that has treasured the experience accumulated in other areas of Italy to carry on a viticulture of excellence in full respect of history and traditions, to the point of being able to afford those deviations that have contributed to increase the intrinsic and the perceived quality of the work, bringing the winery to the top international limelight, a place that certainly deserves thanks to the extraordinary work done by its founder Andrea Franchetti.