Grape variety: Chardonnay
Instead of the indigenous Carricante, which grows on the eastern side of the volcano, Passobianco is made of 100% Chardonnay. When Franchetti arrived on Mt. Etna, he planted 4 hectares of the grape on steep terraces between 850 and 1,000 meters in the contrada of Guardiola, in very loose, deep, powder-like lava that is high in minerals.
Its complexities bring together the specific light, drastic changes in temperature, altitude, and volcanic influences of Etna, and the choice of Chardonnay was meant to allow these influences to meld and evolve over time as the white ages, inspired by the aging potential of the great whites of Burgundy. The harvest is quite fussy, as they pick little portions of the vineyard every day, tasting the berries trailing along the terraces day after day, harvesting only when each individual cluster is ripe. The resulting wine is rich yet fresh, bright yet layered.
The first vintage was in 2007, and beginning with the 2014 vintage, they’ve decided to let the wine pass two years in bottle at the winery before release.
The heatwaves that hit the mainland of Italy also came to Etna. With no drops in temperature that usually brighten the nights, the long, hot summer brought about quite advanced maturation of the Chardonnay grapes. They had to add a little water to the vines to help them through. They picked almost a month earlier than usual, from the 13th to the 30th of August. A rich and lush body signal the heat of the vintage, yet it is brightened by its characteristic minerality and acidity.