A Sicilian on the Move

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At long last: Donnafugata steps onto Etna

Decades ago, Giacomo Rallo became fascinated with the volcanic vineyards of Mount Etna, long before they became fashionable.

The pioneering founder of western Sicily’s Donnafugata winery “fell in love with the place,” his son, Antonio Rallo, recalls. “He thought he should produce wine on those volcanic soils at high altitude.”

In 1990, Giacomo was negotiating to buy a 20-acre wine estate on Etna’s eastern slopes—150 miles from his base in Marsala, at the other end of the island. But as the mountain itself began erupting again, the deal imploded in an Italian-style real-estate mess as multiple property owners and a bank could not reach agreement.

The Rallos turned their attention elsewhere, particularly the windswept island of Pantelleria, where Donnafugata bought 100 acres of Zibbibo, the local name for Muscat of Alexandria. There they make the island's specialty, naturally sweet wines in the passito style, from dried grapes, incuding their flagship Ben Ryé. On Pantelleria, the restoration of rugged volcanic vineyards—including rebuilding 15 miles of drywall terraces—took more investment and sweat than they had imagined.

“Pantelleria took all our energy for a long time,” says Antonio. “We had no time to think about Etna.”

Now, following Giacomo’s death at 79 in May, the Rallos will finally begin producing on Etna...read the full blog at winespectator.com