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Cottanera was founded in 1962 by Francesco Cambria. As a hobby project, and independent of his career, he purchased 100 hectares of property planted to hazelnuts and vineyards near the town of Randazzo, Francesco’s birthplace. For a time, he sold hazelnuts and then his grapes were sold entirely to the local cooperative. Fortunately, in 1968, Etna received DOC status, coinciding with a decline in the market for hazelnuts. Henceforth, the focus to wine production was expedited. By this time Francesco’s son, Gugliemo, was effectively running the operation. He built a winery for purpose of operating as “sfuso” producers, meaning making and selling bulk wine, rather than bottling specific wines from specific places. This strategy proved to be very successful, so with time, and the assistance of his brother, Enzo, he decided to shift the focus to the production of more serious wine. Their first initiative was to improve the health of the vineyards, and to move to a system of lowering the yields. By the mid 1990’s they were producing wine under the Cottanera label, the name derived from an ancient village adjacent to the vineyards on the river Alcantara, in the foothills of Mount Etna.


Initially, Gugliemo and Enzo planted international varieties, yielding to the demands of the trendy market. However, they soon realized there was a growing interest in traditional varieties. Therefore, they planted Carricante, and both Nerello Mascalese, and Nerello Cappuccio. At just 65 hectares of vines, Cottanera is still one of the largest estates in Etna. Both the winery and the vineyards are located in Castiglione di Sicilia, within the province of Catania. Everything from vine to bottle is carried out here. These vineyards are situated at 700 meters above sea level, in soils of alluvial lava and clay. The vineyards are within 5 different sub zones or “Contrada”; Cottanera, Diciasette Salme, Calderara, Zottorinoto, and Fuedo di Mezzo, all on the desired northern slopes of Mount Etna. Cottanera’s focus on quality persists today. These are effectively the Crus of Etna.  They continue their focus on creating wines that are an expression of place, with over 60% of their production going to DOC wines. As of 2011, labelling laws now permit the inclusion of the grape’s origins on labels, including the sub zones, thus increasing the focus on terroir.


Another point of interest is the ancient tradition of women in the vineyards. For generations, the vast majority of work in the vineyard has been carried out by a team of women. Apparently their efficiency and uncommon gentleness is one of the important pieces of making excellent wines in this mountainous region.


Upon Gugliemo’s passing, Enzo carries on with Gugliemo’s children Mariangela, Francesco, and Emanuele.


Etna Bianco DOC


This is 100% Carricante, an indigenous grape believed to have been grown on the side of this semi-active volcano thousands of years ago. It is planted in the highest parts of the vineyards, climbing up to 750 meters above sea level. The vines are around 20 years of age. After hand harvesting, the must is cold macerated for 24 hours, followed by a period of cold settling. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel for about three weeks. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 6 months, followed by a variable period of bottle aging prior to release. Carricante tends towards some exotic floral notes such as chamomile, Oregano,  and Basil, jasmine and orange blossom. This is driven by lemon oil and minerals, and a bit of natural weight leaving the wine at upper medium body. Although the patio is probably the true perfect pairing, this would be lovely with a garlicky cold chicken and mayonnaise salad and a fresh baguette.


Barbazzale Bianco Sicilia DOC


This is mostly Catarratto, from the winery’s estate in volcanic soils on Mount Etna. The vines average around 15 years of age, and are grown at 720 meters above sea level. After hand harvesting, the grapes are cold soaked, then fermented in temperature controlled vats for 20 days. The wine then rests on the lees for 3 months. As expected, minerals are driving the bus, along with an array of fruits; green melon, pear, grapefruit, and lime. Both the nose and palate show plenty of floral notes, herbs, and a hint of tea leaf. This is ideal as an aperitif, with salads, and shellfish


Etna Rosado DOC


This is 100% Nerello Mascalese, made entirely from vineyards in the Diciasettesalme and Castiglione di Sicilia sub zones, just north of the volcano, and grown in a mix of Volcanic and alluvial soils, at 750 meters above sea level.  After manual harvesting, the grapes are cryo macerated for 4 to 5 hours under temperature control, to extract an ideal colour. This is followed by cold maceration, and then 20 days of temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel. The wine is then aged on the lees in stainless steel. Etna Rosado offers roses, orange zest, grapefruit, peaches, cherry blossoms, plus plenty of herbs and savoury notes. Drink this with an array of foods, particularly a cold smoked salmon mousse on a cucumber, with eggs, green onions, and potato frizzles.


Barazzale Etna Rosso DOC


This is typically 90% Nerello Mascalese and 10% Nerello Cappuccio, grown in the the sub regions of Contrada Cottanera, and Castiglione di Sicilia, at an altitude averaging 720 meters. The vines are around 15 years old, and the soils are alluvial lava and clay lava. After manual harvesting, the grapes are destemmed and macerated in temperature controlled vats for 20-25 days. Fermentation occurs in temperature controlled stainless steel with punch downs and frequent pump overs. The wine is then aged in stainless steel for around 5 months. This is a juicy wine, with clean, yet brambly complexity, leaning towards purple hews, and notes of oranges, spices, herbs, and black pepper. In the mid palate and beyond there are some almost Rhone like earthy, meaty notes, that are still presented in a fresh and mobile fashion. The tannins are soft, almost sifted onto the palate. Lean meat, roasted vegetables, or perhaps whole roasted poultry would go well with this unoaked red.


Contrada Diciassettesalme Etna Rosso DOC


This is 100% Nerello Mascalese sourced entirely from the Contrada Diciassettesalme sub region. This small, 17 hectare cru is rich in lava and clay soils, producing wines of stunning minerality. The vines are 12-15 years old, and the vineyard sits at 750 meters above sea level. After hand harvesting, the grapes are gently destemmed, then macerated for thirty days under controlled temperatures. Fermenation is also in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, with regular pump overs, and frequent battonage. Malolactic fermentation occurs in French oak barrels. The wine is aged in large oak barrels for 8 months prior to release. This single cru red, is dark, brooding, yet not heavy or flabby, thanks in part to the altitude, and the freshness the cool nights provides. The tannic structure is medium, as is the body, and the flavours depart from fruit more than otherwise, offering black olives, leather, black cherries, sun dried tomatoes, Danish licorice, black raspberries and more. If it’s a younger vintage, have it with a ribeye or an New York Strip Steak. With age, this would be lovely with a hearty meatloaf, or Beef Wellington.










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