500,000 years of volcanic eruptions have created endless soil variation in neighboring plots of land, many of them radical. The soil at Terre Nere is mostly volcanic ash speckled by black pumice and peppered with abundant volcanic rock; to call it 'rocky' is putting it mildly! The weather variations in the area are profound and generally characterized by exposure, altitude, and 'airiness,' defined here as the character of a well-exposed vineyard not protected by hills, and therefore open to the cooling and drying effects of the wind. This is particularly important at Terre Nere because the harvest usually takes place in the last weeks of October, meaning that the grapes are in their most fragile state when the weather 'breaks' its autumn pattern, making them susceptible to oidium and mildew. The 'airiness' of the climate, however, helps to dry out the grapes after rain and moisture threaten mold.
Above all else, the extraordinary elevation yields dramatic temperature variations between night and day, making the wines of Etna fine and elegant, devoid of the heat and overripe flavors that usually define southern wines. In fact, most people who have tasted these wines, particularly the 2004s, say they find them most akin to Burgundies or Barolos.
Production is simple, classic, and Burgundian in style: the grapes are grown organically, using only bordelaise mixture and organic fertilization - mostly dung. Vinification follows the same lead: maceration-fermentation lasts 10-15 days, followed by malolactic fermentation and aging in oak - 25% new - and bottling around 18 months later.
The 2004 vintage marks the real birth of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, because for the first time the estate is self sufficient, and the grapes produced were vinified at the estate’s new cellars. The wines are astounding. The '02 and '03s have been likened to Pinot and Nebbiolo, as being Burgundian or Langhe-esque. Now there's no doubt about it. The old vines cuvees are difficult to distinguish from very fine Burgundy! With their subtlety and generosity, the wines manage to be rich and precise at the same time.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere will be Certified Organic starting with the 2008 vintage.