Giuseppe, when did your interest for wine start?
"I founded the Benanti Winery in Castiglione di Sicilia, a small town on the Mount Etna, Sicily, in 1988.
At that time, I was driven by a passion for the universe of fine wine and a deep love for the Etna, the desire to embark on a lifetime project for the second half of my life and by the ambition to set a new standard for wine production in Sicily. My grandfather was already a grower of grapes (not a wine producer) at an amateurish level in the late 1800’s and I had very fond memories of many harvests when I was a child."
The wide array of indigenous grapes in your estate is impressive: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Carricante. Would you please define their main features?
"Nerello Mascalese has distinct pure aromas and flavors of sour red cherry, tobacco, aromatic herbs and minerals. It combines structure with light/medium-body and elegance, it is ageworthy and develops phenomenal complexity over time. Nerello Cappuccio has soft flavours of ripe red cherry, minerals and delicate herbs. It is pleasant and refreshing, more floral and fruity than Nerello Mascalese.
Carricante is dry, acidic, very refined and pure with distinct mineral aromas and lemony flavours, green apple and, when mature, with obvious flinty, diesel-fuel aromas. Wines made with carricante are very age-worthy and can develop superb complexity."
How does Mount Etna influence the flavor and taste of your wines?
"First, Mount Etna has a northern climate at a Mediterranean latitude. Second, Etna is a volcano, therefore vines are planted on volcanic soil, unique within the island of Sicily. Finally, we grow grapes that are indigenous to Mount Etna and are almost absent outside the Etna region. The combination of these three elements really makes Etna wines unique."
What was the biggest challenge in developing the Benanti Estate over 25 years?
"The lack of a local know-how was surely an obstacle.
Also, very little was known at that time about the native grapes. Another challenge was the lack of knowledge by professionals in the market. Also, it was much more difficult at that time to spread the culture of our territory and wines, as internet did not exist yet! We really built our reputation through positive word of mouth, year after year. There were many keen early adopters but, obviously, it was a rather slow process. Since the end of 2012, the winery is owned and managed by my sons Antonio and Salvino."
What will be the global role of Sicilian wine in the next decades?
"I see a bright future for Sicilian wines. The community of those who perceive wine drinking as a cultural experience is growing steadily. In this context, wines from rare indigenous grapes (68% of the wine produced in Sicily now comes from indigenous grapes) are very well positioned. Average quality is rising too. Finally, leading Sicilian producers now travel the world more often to promote their wines and territories."
Finally, our unavoidable #Libiamo question: If you had to suggest an opera as the right soundtrack to drink your wines with, what would you suggest?
"Cavalleria Rusticana, for sure!"
We cannot imagine a better choice: an opera by Pietro Mascagni based on a play and short story written by the famed Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga…
Among the many, astonishing wines produced by Benanti, our pick is the Etna Rosso Doc, a wine with smooth texture and bold personality, available on the #Libiamo Wines online store.