Meet Mt Etna’s Volcanic Wines: Sicily’s Tenuta Monte Gorna and Tenuta di Fessina with pairings #ItalianFWT

For Tenuta di Fessina owner Silvia Maestrelli, “I look up to Mount Etna like a daughter would look up to a mother.”

Or possibly a phoenix.

Like a mother, Mt Etna or A Muntagna, as the locals refer to the mountain, is a living organism.  Ash, dust, and smoke from Etna, at 11,000′ the highest active volcano in Europe, give the region its distinctive volcanic soil which brings unique flavors, styles, and character to the wines grown there.

Winemaking in Sicily goes back to 4000BC. The Greeks developed viticulture there brought in the 8th century B.C, and with its central location in the Mediterranean, it’s no surprise that The Phoenicians and the Romans traded Sicilian wines which led to their renown.

Located between two ancient lava beds, the volcano and Tenuta di Fessina together create a unique micro climate. In the village of Rovittello, the winery has vineyards on different sides of the mountain, in Rovittello and between Milo and Santa Maria di Licodìa.

This month for Italian Wine Food Travel, we are also tasting two wines from Tenuta Monte Gorna which is about to be imported from Sicily by Sheila Donahue of Verovinogusto! At this point, little information is available in English about Monte Gorna but if you read Italian check this out: Lettera di presentazione aziendale_TMG 2020 – ITA + Premi.


  • Ciabbata and Cheese Board: double cream brie, truffle cheese, black pepper Toscana
  • Ceasar Salad with anchovies
  • Mushroom, Prosciutto, and Italian Sausage Pizza
  • Caprese pizza
  • Bacon and mushroom carbonara pasta



Three Tenuta Monte Gorna imported by Verovinogusto


2017 Tenuta Monte Gorna “Akis”  Etna Rosato
2017 Tenuta Monte Gorna Jancu di Carpene Etna Bianco DOC
2017 Tenuta Di Fessina “a’puddara” Etna Bianco
2012 Tenuta Di Fessina Riserva Nerello Mascalese


2017 Tenuta Monte Gorna “Akis”  Etna Rosato
ABV 12.5%; SRP $25

Color: Peachy orange, blood orange

Nose: Blood orange, cherry, rhubarb, as the wine warms, spice comes through on the palate

Palate: This is such a pleasing wine, satiny smooth mouthfeel, cvolcanic earth and dust. Cherry and blood orange come across the palate from the nose. Tart bright acidity, there is stone there as well, wet stone, volcanic dust and soil

Pairing: While this wine was really nice on its own, we kept thinking about what foods would be fabulous with this wine. Sushi, prosciutto, Very nice with the triple cream brie, very nice with the truffle cheese (which is not always Sue’s favorite because of the strong flavor) however this wine handles the cheese nicely. I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich made with Italian truffle cheese paired with this wine. , fantastic with a great quality parmesan, great with the pepper crusted Toscano cheese . This wine can handle most cheeses. We did not want to quit eating and sipping this wine. We both reached a heavenly moment when the carbonara was paired with this wine. Loves the Cesar salad and was fabulous with the margarita pizza as well, loving the tomato and the char from the grill. This is such a food friendly wine.

Tenuta Monte Gorna Etna Bianco DOC

2017 Tenuta Monte Gorna Jancu di Carpene Etna Bianco DOC
ABV 13%; SRP $25

Color: Yellow, kind of gold, like a daffodil

Nose: Minerals, grass, you can smell the volcanic soil, bee pollen, light jasmine, orange blossom

Palate: Noticable mouthfeel, clean, enjoyable, it has a brightness without being to acidic, very balanced, This is a wine that is so much better at cellar temp rather than super chilled. All of the nuance and interest comes out in the wine as it warms up a. bit.

Pairing: Without food it seems like a fairly simple wine, but with food, this is a fancy dancer. This wine really needs food to be truly appreciated. It tackled every cheese on our cheese plate. It tackled the Italian truffle. Tamed the Toscano, the part became sweet, and had a cleansing effect on the creamy brie. Great with the Cesar salad. Great with the margarita pizza loving the garlic, tomato and crisp crust off the grill. Perfect with our rich carbonara. The wine ,makes the richness sweet, like sweet cream even though there is no cream in a carbonara. While all worked well, the margarita pizza was by far the best companion. Save this special wine with some very special fresh seafood,,,, think civeiche

2017 Tenuta Di Fessina “A’Puddara” Carricante Etna Bianco DOC
ABV 12.5%; SRP $66

The unusual name of A’Puddara for this wine references Ovid, one of the three most important poets of Latin literature who lived during the reign of Augustus.

Color: Golden, like gold jewelry.

Nose: Sue felt the wine was very beachy, fresh and alive like the beach, the ocean waves, the wet sand and fog, beach grasses, there is also apricot kernel, light honeysuckle, wet slate

Palate: The mouthfeel of this wine is quite like satin across the palate, very tart and bright on the finish, high acidity, kiwi, eureka lemon, real lemon, lemon peel, candied lemon rind, oceanic on the palate as well as on the nose.

Pairing: This wine totally fought with the creamy brie, both of us wanted to get the taste out of our mouth. It liked the truffle cheese, there was a funk and a funk that came together beautifully, great with the Toscano, but Sue felt it went the very best with our Parmesan. I so wanted oysters. I really liked this wine with the Cesar, but it wasn’t a wow pairing. With the carbonara we did not care for it at all. I had a few oysters in my fridge from my trip to San Fran this weekend.

After trying it with fresh oysters, we found it to be a fabulous pairing. Do not pair this wine with cream, or creamy fish dishes. It wants the fresh fish, fish off the grill, fish tacos. As Sue stated, ” This wine does not want any of the fat, it just wants the fresh flavors of the ocean to make it shine.” Paired with the oyster the finish goes on and on and on. It did appreciate the tomato in the margarita pizza, but it was nothing to write home about.

Think chicken piccata with lots of capers!

2012 Tenuta Di Fessina  Riserva Nerello Mascalese
ABV 13.5%: SRP $42 (?)

Il Musmeci is named for the Musmeci family, the original owners of Tenuta di Fessina.

Color: Very translucent, light in body, brickish, rusty red

Nose: Sue, “OMG, I love the nose on this wine! It’s filled with baking spices, cigar box, black current tea, cherry, pomegranate, rhurbarb , even going back after several wines throughout the evening On the nose, this wine stood out in Sue’s mind. Sandalwood, incense, cedar, nutmeg. The wine is very relaxing and meditative on the nose.

Palate: This is a very acidic dry wine, it yearns for food, I’m fascinated by the dry finely grained texture of the tannins and there is a great deal of tannins! So much fruit, tannins and acidity for a 2012 vintage. This wine could probably lay down for another 10 years or so. I really love the tannins in this wine. The nose gets better as the night lingers.

There is nothing boring about the nose of this wine, and the following day I was still equally entranced by it!

Pairing: Food brings out all of the wonderful flavors that are apparent on the nose. It tames the creaminess of the brie, bringing out beautiful bright tart fruit in the wine. They are very complimentary together. I couldn’t figure out why Sue was going on and on about the pairing until I tried it myself.  The truffle flavor in the cheese, it loves the pepper in the Toscano. Do not pair with. So rich and flavorful with the carbonara The most perfect companions. The wine refreshes the palate, and the food complements the wine.The wine loves the smoke and salt from this Italian bacon, and the food is tamed and enhanced by the wine.  The wine loved the red sauce and the anchovies in the salad making us think this would be fantastic with putenesca sauce. Sue also thought this wine would be perfect with a caponata. I loved this wine with the carbonara, but I really loved it with the char from the grill on our margarita a pizza.

I’ve already climbed a few volcanos, including to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro which is almost 20,000′. I’d sure love to visit all of the volcanos of Italy and taste the wines made there. But right now, we’re all only traveling virtually, and you’re in luck because many of my fellow wine writers have some volcanos and volcanic wines for you!

Who is writing about what this month:

9 thoughts on “Meet Mt Etna’s Volcanic Wines: Sicily’s Tenuta Monte Gorna and Tenuta di Fessina with pairings #ItalianFWT

  1. You and I had several of the same wines this month and it’s so interesting to compare notes. It’s also kind of funny bc we had the a’puddara with a super cheesy pizza with anchovies and loved how it worked! I could absolutely see it being AMAZING with oysters!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved Sue’s description of the Fessina Bianca. I’ve had similar experiences where nothing I made is seeming to pair with a wine. Hope you have some left to try it with oysters!


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