Monaci delle Terre Nere, Zafferana Etnea, Italien: In vino veritas – 3 questions for a sommelier
Right on the slopes of Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Europe, you’ll find the historic estate of Monaci delle Terre Nere and its own vineyards. Full of extraordinary charm and natural beauty, this spot was originally chosen by the monks of St Anne’s order in the 17th century. Terraces were built for the cultivation of vines given the area’s propensity for wine, which today is part of the Etna DOC area. We met with Marco Torrisi, Monaci’s very own sommelier, to ask him three very important questions about wine.
Can you give us some tips on how to choose good wine?
You need to consider a number of elements and find the right balance. A tip for choosing a good-quality wine is evaluating the area of origin. Ask yourself: do the grapes come from a vineyard owned by the producer?
The second secret is to give priority to wines with origin marks (e.g. IGP, IGT, DOP, DOC), and to avoid buying wines that don’t have one. Finally, the last tip concerns the price: in the absence of further elements to evaluate, to be sure you’re getting a wine of average quality, it is better to buy bottles starting from an average price upwards. This is not a strict rule, as some excellent wines can cost less than you think and vice versa, but it is a parameter to be taken into consideration.
At the end of the day, however, you must always keep in mind what you want to eat with the wine. So as not to risk ruining the meal, you need to know how to combine wine with food, or at least the basic rules. Finding the right combinations is a real art and you cannot expect to become an expert immediately as if by magic. You have to build up your own experience. So, just like everything in life, it comes down to learning by doing.
How do wine and sustainability work hand in hand?
Environmental sustainability is the human activity that regulates its practice according to ecological assumptions in the framework of sustainable development. The renewal of resources is at the centre of the discourse surrounding sustainability and is seen as the intrinsic capacity of the world to transform itself in a cyclical manner – a capacity that must be defended in order not to modify the delicate balance on earth. The sustainability of wine is man’s ability to preserve nature so that future generations can take advantage of the same quantity of resources we have available today. At Monaci, we try to preserve nature as much as possible by using as few chemicals as possible. We aim for the quality and not the beauty of the vineyard. For us, the customer who drinks wine must drink healthily.
What was your favourite vintage of the past few years, and what do you like most about the wines produced at Monaci delle Terre Nere?
My favourite harvest has to be the one from 2014. Our elegant wines, certified organic, are distinguished by strength, finesse and elegance, respect for the land and its product – namely, the grapes. Obsessive care of the vineyard, precisely because: “Great wines are produced from great grapes,” a phrase that summarises our philosophy.
Monaci delle Terre Nere is a privileged place, the first where you can taste the wine produced from the estate’s vineyards. Several autochthonous varieties from the Etna region can be tasted at our Locanda restaurant. Nerello Mascalese and Carricante stand out, varieties of white grapes exclusively found in Etna.
The biggest mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t judge the book by its cover... or the wine by its label!
- Don’t take wine too seriously
- When choosing your wine, don’t be afraid... TAKE THE RISK!
- Don’t be fooled: picking the same variety doesn’t mean it’s the same wine
- If there is a vine that intrigues you, explore. It is never bad!