Etna, in Sicily, is a special place for wine. And Ayunta is an exciting project in the region. I caught up with the man behind Ayunto, Filippo Mansion, to find out more.
Filippo hails from Sicily, although not from Etna, where he’s now a winegrower. He began Ayunta from scratch in 2011 and his first vintage was in 2012. He was already involved in wine, but in the other side of the business, as a sales person. He’d also experience working in publishing.
‘One day, I felt I wanted my own project,’ he said. ‘From a wine point of view, Etna was an obsession,’ he says. ‘From a taste profile of the wines you can make there, it is so interesting.’
One day, he found some old vineyards on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, in a contrada called Calderara Sottana. He took the plunge, and in the debut vintage made 1200 bottles. ‘After a couple of vintages I understood how to harvest the white and red grapes separately,’ he says. ‘All these vines are from small parcels close to each other. It’s a special spot: we have vines going up to 200 years old. Most are own rooted, and some are grafted.’ These are planted as field blends with whites and reds together.
Overall, there are four vineyard parcels, and production is 15 000 bottles annually.
For whites, Carricante is the main grape, but there’s also Cataratto and other native grapes such as Zibibbo (Muscat). Altitude is 700 m. ‘The old vineyards get to ripeness and don’t lose acidity.’
‘I’m obsessed with just using perfect grapes,’ says Filippo. He just adds a bit of sulfur after fermentation and then at bottling, so these wines are pretty natural.
For the reds, the varieties include Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocer and Alicante Bouschet. Harvest is at the end of October. ‘You need to be brave at harvest,’ says Filippo, ‘because at the end of October the weather can change.’ He likes to get good ripeness of the stems, skins and seeds. ‘The grapes aren’t there to make wines, they are there to make seeds to replicate. We force grapes to make wine. The berry is just the rest of the pip.’
The grapes are crushed, ferment spontaneously in open cement vats, and are then pressed as soon as fermentation finishes. No whole bunches are used. Then they are aged for a year in big barrels of 2500 litre (chestnut) and 3000 litres (oak). The results are profound.
UK agent is Red Squirrel.
Ayunta Piante Sparse 2016 Etna Bianco, Italy
Carricante (70%), Cataratto (20%), Inzolia, Zibibbo, Minella Bianca. Piante Sparse translates as stray vines and this wine is made from white grapes co-planted with reds. Filippo waits for veraison then picks the whites. They are crushed, have one night skin contact, and then are fermented and age on lees for a year. Ripe, nutty, intense and waxy with nice depth and richness. Shows almond, tangerine and herbs with lovely weight. Good concentration and focus. 94/100
Ayunta Pinte Sparse 2014 Etna Bianco, Italy
First vintage. This is detailed and salty with nice complexity and some structure. Lively, showing tangerine, citrus and some peach with a nice linear core. Has a savory edge and notes of sage and herbs, with a bitter sweet finish. Very fine. 94/100
Ayunta Navigable 2016 Etna Rosso, Italy
Navigable is the old name for the premium wines from the area: those that were shipped. This is very fine and expressive with nice tannic structure. Compact raspberry and cherry fruit with good grip and nice tannins. Medium bodied and structured, tending to elegance. Grippy finish. 93/100
Ayunta Navigable 2013 Etna Rosso, Italy
This is fine: structured and pure but with lovely sweet red cherries and raspberries. Such finesse. There’s a lovely stoniness to the palate with some floral, elegant, liqueur-like fruit and waxy notes on the finish. So textural. 95/100
Ayunta Caldera Sottana 2015 Etna Rosso, Italy
Hand-picked selection from all four vineyards. This has lovely concentration. It’s fine and expressive with raspberry and cherry fruit and some liqueur-like notes. There’s a lovely gravelly core with a stony edge. Supple and bright with some herbs and subtle ash notes, and some Campari character. Grainy and very serious. 95/100
Ayunta Parossismo 2012 Etna Rosso, Italy
This was the first wine, 1248 bottles made. Dense and grippy with a hint of mushroom, as well as wax and leather notes. Some herbs. Savoury and detailed with lovely focus to the red fruits, and nice grip. Showing a bit of maturity, and quite lovely. 94/100
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