Vino Di Anna
Nestled high on peaks on Mount Etna - at 975m above sea level to be exact - lies Vino di Anna of Eric Nario and Anna Mertens. The couple founded their volcanic project in 2008, before purchasing their first vineyard in 2010, alongside an old palmento. Eric and Anna now have 7ha of biodynamically farmed land across the northern slopes of Etna and are flying the flag for top quality natural wine in the area.
A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to spend the afternoon with Eric whilst harvest was still in full swing and some of the vines were still heavy with purple-blue ripe Nerello Mascalese. Across the road their family home lies the first vineyard that they purchased over a decade ago. Here we witnessed their gnarly Nerello vines that have reached over 125 years old. As is tradition up here, their inherited and regenerated (unfortunately many people took to chemical farming in the last 50 years) vineyards are made up of field blends with a strong leaning towards Nerello Mascalese which is king on the northern slopes of Etna. And today, the vines now share their space with an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna.
A mere 10 metres away lies their ancient palmento - the traditional cellar winery that is typically built from the local lava rock - which continues its winemaking history under Vino di Anna, albeit with some modern alterations. When we arrive, the small team is busy moving buckets filled with partially crushed red and whites grapes that have been sitting in one of the palmento’s sub-terranean vats and is now ready to be gently pressed.
It is hard to say what is most impressive about Eric and Anna’s operation but the cellar that they built last summer has got to be one of them. All built by hand from the rocks and earth on their own land (which Eric believes increased the natural yeast composition in the cellar), it is a beautiful curved space that is home to five qvevri that have somehow been built into the earth, as well as a mixture of old wooden barrels and small nooks in the walls that are filled with bottles of previous vintages.