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The Donnafugata Estate high

150 miles from his base in Marsala, the volcanic vineyards of Sicily’s Mount Etna, always held a longing fascination for founder of Donnafugata wine, Giacomo Rallo.

In 1990, long before the area’s current popularity with producers, Giacomo was in negotiations to buy a 20-acre winery on Etna’s eastern slopes, however the deal fell through when the mountain itself began erupting again.

Giacomo’s son Antonio Rallo and daughter José Rallo, who run Donnafugata, will begin their 2016 Etna harvest this year. It promises to be the first of many.

“This was my father’s dream,” says 49 year old Antonio. “In the last few years, we have been thinking about Etna more and more. My father and I visited there together just a week before he died”.
This expansion to eastern Sicily will see the family leasing 37 acres of vines in a new winery on Etna’s north face, with intent to purchase that land and more later in the year.

Giacomo’s prediction for Etna’s popularity as a growing region has come to pass with winemaking in the area now booming. The dynamic energy in the region has been attributed to the challenges of new terroir and working in close proximity to other producers .
“There are a lot of very good producers working on Etna, and for us it’s more stimulating being with other producers who are working well,” says Antonio.

This eastern move puts Donnafugata’s name alongside other family producers such as Planeta and Tasca d’Almerita, who have successfully taken multi-terroir approaches throughout Sicily. Wines produced on the mountain are primarily from two local grape varietals – reds from Nerello Mascalese and whites from Carricante.

Workingwith the Nerello Mascalese grape is a very different process from Donnafugata’s usual Nero d’Avola wines. Antonio, Donnafugata’s chief winemaker explains how important it is not to overextract. “It’s a wine that has to be elegant,” he says.

Donnafugata is most noted for producing sweet passito-style Ben Ryé on the island of Pantelleria, currently producing around 190,000 cases a year from 640 acres of vineyards and attracting global praise for creating the finest quality wines. With its rich soils and extended production season, Etna is sure to be its equal.

Antonio and Jose Antonio and José Rallo of Donnagfugata toast their move to Etna.

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