Salvo Foti is synonymous with Etna having worked as an agronomist and winemaker here for over 30 years, starting when Etna was a forgotten backwater of a wine region despite it's noble history. He's one of a long line going back to his great grandfather that worked the special land. To this day he still works with the zone's best wineries like Benanti, Gulfi and ViniBiondi but his own wines are emerging as the stars of Etna.
I Vigneri is a project Salvo started a few years back based on a 15th century organization called I Maestranzi di Vigneri which was a guild of vineyard workers who shaped the quality of wine growing and making here that many centuries ago with their cultivation of albarello or bush vines. Today, his version of that guild involves winegrowers, agronomists and other local experts led by Salvo in an effort to preserve and farm old vineyards in a holistic manner and to make the zones best wines out of traditional varietals. A lot of these vines are well over 100 years old and had to be rehabilitated. No chemicals, hand working the vines, hand harvesting and only working the soil with a mule; Ciccio (pictured). The first bottlings we saw were about 10 years ago and now there are a few more wines, the whites in particular which have practically become cult wines.
Carricante, an ancient Sicilian varietal indigenous to eastern Etna, is the reason the whites of Etna have been getting so much attention. In a zone that's become so well known for it's pretty, Burgundian styled red wines of late, the surprise is that these wines are the real treasures here. Carricante produces high acid, mineral inflected wines which really show off Etna's volcanic soil and the grape finds its best terroir near Milo on the eastern side of the zone. These vineyards are densely planted, 8,000 vines per hectare, at around 2,800 feet above sea level and farmed for stingy yields. The results are striking. These wines are often compared to white Burgundy but I couldn't disagree more. They do have the dense minerality and complexity of a lot of Burgundies but these are just so distinctively Sicilian; there's no mistaking the unique Etna terroir from the saline/marine nose to the subtle tropical notes.
The 2013 Aurora is a beauty with it's exotic spice and salty, flint and chalk mineral and citrus nose. Explosive flavors of lemon marmalade, orange and even a hint of coconut all braced by plenty of acidity. Alcohol listed at 12% and I'm not sure it's even that high. Lots of lift and length on the palate. I've never had a wine quite like this, a really pleasant surprise. One drop and will sell out quickly.