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When Dr. Giuseppe Benanti started making wine from his family’s winery and estate vineyards in the late 1980s, there were less than 10 producers in Etna. Dr. Benanti’s goal was to resurrect the winemaking customs of his family from the late 1800s, producing wine primarily from the native varieties on Mt. Etna. His early work in the DOC helped bring attention to the amazing terroirs of Mt. Etna. The Etna DOC is a semicircle to the north, east and south around the active volcano. The Benanti estate is located in the southern part of the Etna DOC in Viagrande. They produce wine from their estate vineyards as well as work closely with growers in the north and east on Mt. Etna. Today, Giuseppe’s sons Antonio and Salvino are enthusiastically committed to keeping the Benanti classic and elegant Etna wines at the forefront of the appellation.
"Ever since they took the helm of the winery in 2012, with many new labels launched and new vineyard acquisitions and sales, siblings Salvino and Antonio Benanti have been leading the estate into a new dimension, one that they like to characterize as an “evolution of continuity,” assisted by historical collaborators such as their in-house winemaker Enzo Calì (full-time at Benanti since 2004) and their commercial director Agatino Failla (with them since 2011). The recent new bottlings continue in the same vein as what has been done at the estate since its beginning back in 1990, when they started bottling wines clearly linked to a specific terroir; for example, the Rovittello Etna Rosso from the volcano’s northern slope in the commune of Castiglione di Sicilia, and even the Nerello Cappuccio monovariety bottling, made with grapes picked on Etna’s southwestern flank in the territory of Santa Maria di Licodia. The Benantis are now aiming to produce as many as six different contrada wines. In 2019, they launched two more, the Etna Bianco Contrada Cavaliere and the Etna Rosso Contrada Cavaliere, after the Etna Rosso Contrada Monte Serra 2016 was released in 2018."
"Benanti is a historic name in not only Sicilian but also Italian wine circles. If today we can speak of Etna Rosso wines and their truly amazing quality level and site-specificity, it is thanks to the Benanti family (and their previous winemaker, the ultra-talented Salvo Foti), who were the first to believe and insist upon Etna’s native grapes, at a time when everyone in Sicily was rushing to plant Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Credit must go to Benanti for having created the I Monovitigni series of wines, which showcased to great effect the characteristics and high quality of the likes of monovariety Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascalese and even Minnella Bianca at a time when little was known about these cultivars. As if that weren’t enough, their Etna Bianco Superiore Pietramarina is one of Italy’s four or five best white wines."
"If Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Carricante have become superstar grape varieties--along with the wines of Etna in general---credit needs to go to the Benanti family and their original winemaker Salvo Foti, who were by far the first to believe in this mountain viticulture. Giuseppe Benanti, now helped by his sons Antonio and Salvino, started the estate back in 1998 but his grandfather, also called Giuseppe, was buying land and making wine from what are now considered grand cru areas of Etna such as Guardiola already back in the late 1800s.
Today Benanti makes what might be Italy’s best white wine, the Etna Bianco Superiore Pietramarina, as well as the best version of mono-variety Nerello Cappuccio, a wine that clearly shows that this variety does not necessarily have to play second fiddle to the more famous Nerello Mascalese. But readers beware: should the variety gain in popularity, this being Italy you’re likely to suddenly see myriad Nerello Cappuccio-labeled wines in the near future, but beware that much of what is believed to be Nerello Cappuccio on the island is actually Sangiovese or Carignan. Benanti also makes wines from the area of Noto (Nero d’Avola) and from Pantelleria (Zibibbo).
Always moving forward, the estate vinifies with natural yeasts selected from their own vineyards, and the estate is looking to plant another six or seven hectares of Carricante. Another sign of sure-fire commitment to Etna is that the Benantis have done away their international grapes, and have sold off some vineyards in the process, which, not surprisingly, were quickly gobbled up by a large, well-known Sicilian estate."