Quantum of Solace
The area around Linguaglossa, on the northern slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily is a remarkable and spectacular wine terroir, where native grape varieties grown on volcanic soils meet high altitude and fine weather to create a series of subtly different microclimates. If the time ever comes to designate an Etna Classico zone, Linguaglossa is likely to be one of the focal points.
The Etna wine revolution continues apace, an intriguing blend of ancient and modern. One winery that I didnâ€™t investigate on my last visit is Quantico. Above it, Etna spits, snarls and smokes, a constant belligerent threat.
Quantico is small and organically farmed – just 6 ha in total. Their Etna Bianco and Etna Rosso are grown at the 1.5 ha Contrada Lavinia vineyard, up at 600-750 metres altitude. While there is a long family tradition of viticulture here, AA Giulemi set up Quantico only in 2009.
What of the wines?
Etna Rosso: Nerello Mascalese 90% and Nerello Capuccio 10%, abv 13%. Handpicked, wild yeasts, aged for twelve months in large old wood casks. It is bright crimson with great elegance, freshness and above all, purity. Wafts of violets a cherries on the nose, the lifted palate shows pinot-ish red fruits with a balsamic undertow. No wood effects let the grapes speak for themselves. Well balanced and very food-friendly at only a moderate 13% alcohol. No rough edges, tannins all smoothed off and a good long finish. Just 1,500 bottles produced.
Etna Bianco: 70% Carricante, 20% Cataratto and 10% Grillo, abv 12%. Handpicked, wild yeasts, fermented on the grape skins in stainless steel. Brilliant yellow hue, wild flower scents: gorse, herbs, citrus, reprised on the palate. Plenty of fresh acidity and a delicious salty minerality. 3,500 bottles produced
I recently tried both these wines and was knocked out by their quality and purity, which I attributed to the complete absence of any sulphur as preservative, which is far from easy to achieve. Both wines are drinking perfectly now and while there is no hurry they are best enjoyed young while fruity and vibrant.
The Rosso was brilliant with a simple ragÃº and penne pasta dish, the bianco a perfect foil for grilled fish. At this point I decided to investigate Quantico more thoroughly.
The quote on the bottle says:
Questo vino parla al cuore. Originale, irrverente e sorprendente, perche dallâ€™uva al vino Ã¨ solo questione di sole, energia e amore per la propria terra. Tutto nel pieno rispetto dellâ€™ambiente.
(Rough translation; This wine speaks to the heart. Original, irreverent and surprising, because from the grape to the wine is only a matter of sun, energy and love for our land. Everything fully respects the environment).
This is poetic but could apply to many a small-production organic wine. But what of Quantum physics?
It turns out that Quantico are experimenting with using â€œinnovative methodsâ€ in the vineyard based on magnetic fields. Are these more hair-shirt practices of dubious scientific merit? Well, it seems that there is a body of very serious university-led research about employing magnetic fields to strengthen the natural health of the plant. As far as I can tell, marvelous results have been achieved with sunflowers it seems.
For what may be the first time, magnetic fields are being used with vines rather than usre the usual arsenal of harmful chemical fertilisers and sprays. Some sort of device called the Telos AgroQuantum is being employed. Expect to see more winegrowers experimenting with these techniques in the future.
Can I explain to you how it works? Not right now and anyway most of the literature is in Italian. Does it work? Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said that a technology sufficiently advanced from our own would be indistinguishable from magic. Well, for me all the evidence I require for now is in the glass and I knew nothing of such practices before I tried the wines, and they were magical to me.
Etna is an exciting region where young wineries like Tenute della Terre Nere, Passopisciaro and Frank Cornelissen are all making waves, Quantico are clearly poised to join them in making waves of their own. Whatever it is they are doing, theyâ€™re doing it right, at the six-sigma confidence level. Their Rosso is by far the most exciting new wine I have tried this year, the Bianco is not too far behind.
Given the tiny production, these wines are found locally in the osteria and enoteca around the nearby resort of Taormina. If you go there on holiday, look out for them.
A final note to the FBI: these Quantico wines are certainly on my â€œmost wantedâ€ list.