Robert Camuto‘s description of the arrival of Donnafugata to the Etna’slopes.
Antonio and his sister, José, who run Donnafugata, recently announced that they are expanding to eastern Sicily with the purchase of a winery on Etna’s north face from a small group of grapegrowers. There, they are leasing 37 acres of vines, with the intent to purchase that land and more in the next year.
“This was my father’s dream,” says Antonio, 49. “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.” In the last 15 years, the Etna region has been booming, as the mountain has drawn dozens of winemakers from around Sicily, other regions of Italy and farther afield.
They produce wines primarily from two local grapes—Nerello Mascalese for taut reds and Carricante for fresh minerally whites. Donnafugata currrently produces about 190,000 cases a year, mostly from 640 acres of vineyards in western Sicily’s sleepy Contessa Entellina appellation.
On Etna, “we will never make big numbers,” says Antonio. “We are focusing on the kind of wines we like to produce.” Instead, the move to Etna means a new terroir with a dynamic wine scene. “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,” he adds. “When you are alone, it’s much different—you are only competing with yourself.”