This is the story of knowing the right people, at the right time, at the right place with the right wines. Then again, that seems to be my life story that fortunately hasn’t ended yet. What I chanced upon next was something that I wouldn’t have imagined tasting at all. You’ve heard that good things are worth waiting for. I waited for 1 month to finally be able to taste Benanti’s Pietramarina (I retraced back my own history thanks to the timeline on Facebook). There’s something about its label that captured my heart. As cheesy as it sounded, my intuition and feeling have never been wrong all these while.
One day, that right person with the right wine invited me to a Sicilian wine event. As usual, I went without knowing what will be served. I only knew there would be wine. That’s a good enough reason for me. Due to the limited space of my memory, I didn’t register the name Benanti at all. Not yet, at least.
Halfway interviewing the winemaker, Mr. Antonio Benanti, then I realized,”Oh geez. His family actually created Pietramarina!” Of course, I kept my excitement closeted at all times. I didn’t want to appear lunatic that early yet, so I continued with the interview.
Along the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna (East coast of Sicily, Italy), the sights of vineyards are not something uncommon. The locals love their wines and have been consuming their own creations. Giuseppe Benanti, the great grandfather of Antonio began producing wines since the end of 19th century. However in 1988, Antonio’s father; Dr. Giuseppe Benanti, a chemist and pharmacist transformed the wine industry in the Etna region by chance. He was in a golf club reading the wine list and was shocked to know that there were no Etnean wines. That one single moment coupled with his relentless passion made him the pioneer of making Etnean wines worthy of international standard. He invited experts from other wine regions to study the unique Etnean soils and not only he managed to revive the family tradition but also Benanti has been regarded as one of the best winemakers of Southern Italy who preserves and promotes the local indigenous varieties, such as Nerello Mascalese (Red), Nerello Cappuccio (Red), and Carricante (White).
Mount Etna still erupts almost every year which makes wine making is so different from other parts of Sicily. Even more interesting, the climate can be different from one section of the volcano to another due to the shape of the mountain. The volcanic soil is very rich in minerals which then translates to high acidity and that’s why Etnean wines has longevity. A white wine with a vintage of 1999 is still in good shape!
Due to its high altitude and sandy area, Etnean wines are not meant to be produced in great volumes. It is not wines for the supermarkets but for the more selective and discerning segments of the industry such as restaurant owners, sommeliers and private buyers.
If you ask me how Benanti wines taste like, I can only say it is truly unique, elegant with characters that you will never forget. I asked Antonio what he would be drinking if today is the last day on earth. The Benanti Serra Della Contessa will be his choice. He closed the interview by sharing what I personally agree to be true – being in a wine industry is truly a meaningful calling. You meet people who are sincerely passionate of what they are doing from whichever levels of the industry. From the winemaker, wine distributors, wine drinkers, etc; you will always find warm, happy, smiley and passionate people. Thank you, Benanti and Angra for sharing your passion with me. Truly humbled.
(Originally Published in TheLocalNose.com on the 8th of November 2013)