Fires ravage Etna vineyards
7 Aug 2012 by Jancis Robinson

8 Aug - Barbara Santilli adds, 'Although It's still hard to assess the damage, Andrea says we lost about 20% of the 2012 production; from Passopisciaro they're saying we lost the equivalent of about 7,000 bottles.

Unfortunately these fires break out quite often on the volcano. It's the brulage practice carried out by shepherds. They burn the land to fertilize it. Obviously today this practice clashes with the presence of vineyards that have transformed Etna into a precious wine region. We hope the authorities will do something about this in the future.'

On Sunday morning the north side of Etna, where so many of the most important vineyards on this volcano in eastern Sicily are concentrated, was devastated by summer bushfires. Many acres of Mediterranean scrub, pine and beech forests in the local natural park were destroyed.

Unfortunately the hot sirocco wind was so strong that the local broom in the contrada (local word for a hamlet) of Guardiola were also burnt and fires reached the walls of the cellar of Passopisciaro, the Etna winery of Andrea Franchetti of Tenuta del Trinoro in southern Tuscany. (See this video taken of him around Passopisciaro at the first Contrade del Etna wine fair in 2008, and indeed the entire series of Sicilian videos 1-5 by using the Search box for Rest of site.) 

The fires spread so fast that they also damaged some of Passopisciaro's Chardonnay vineyards at an altitude of 1,000 m, where they produce a wine they describe modestly as 'our Sicilian Montrachet'.

Barbara Santilli of Trinoro reports, 'luckily, the grounds around the vines were kept clean so the flames didn't destroy the plants. However, the high temperatures could have harmed the grapes. It's still early to assess the damage and also the responsibilities. Nevertheless, the forest rangers and the firemen did their best to stop the fires with all the possible means.'

See Walter Speller's detailed report on all the current activity and issues in this hotbed of vinous activity in Foti of Etna revisited.