Donnafugata Volcanic Wines

Volcanic wines are wines that are made from grapes that grow on slopes of active or dormant or extinct volcanoes. This group also comprises wines from the areas where volcanoes erupted thousands or even millions of years ago, such as Donnafugata in Sicily.

Special aspects of volcanic viticulture:

• Volcanoes and volcanic soils account for 1 % of land.

• There is no phylloxera on volcanic soils, therefore, vines often grow ungrafted and are pretty old in such regions. 

• Low crop yield results in high-concentration wines.

• Volcanic soils are well-drained, thus vines get an optimal amount of moisture.

• In volcanic zones, indigenous grape varieties prevail; it makes these wines so interesting to study.

*Detailed information about the regions of volcanic winemaking is provided below.

DONNAFUGATA (Pantelleria)

Region: Etna

History: 1983 is the year of Donnafugata vineyard establishment. Today, this is one of the most famous and impressive brands of Sicilian wine. Beauty, flavor, vivid and unbridled emotions, and artisanship are the principles the brand is based on. The name «Donnafugata» means «a wind-blown lady»; that is why the company’s logo is an image of a young woman with wind-blown hair.

Vineyards: today Donnafugata owns 400 hectares of vineyards. Since 2016, Donnafugata is engaged in the Sul Vulcano project on the northern slope of Etna (Rondazzo winery). Vines are cultivated on 21 hectares of tuff and sandy soils at a height of 730–750 meters in the communes of Randazzo and Castiglione di Sicilia.

In 2022, Donnafugata presented a collaboration of volcanic wines with the Sicilian brand Dolce&Gabbana, introducing collection of bottles with design labels in special gift boxes. White wine segment is presented by Isolano (Carricante) while Cuordilava (Nerello Mascalese) fills the red wine niche.

Fast facts: Donnafugata winery is among the TOP 3 wine companies in Italy according to the Global Wine Brand Power Index 2021.

Each wine bottle label is crafted by artist Stefano Vitale. These unique labels are the winery signature.

Donnafugata contributes to Sicily’s economic and cultural development. It is a venue for regular jazz multisensory programs where each wine is combined with a music composition whose rhythm enhances the experience of wine tasting.

Region: Pantelleria

Some of Donnafugata’s vineyards are located on Pantelleria island. There, Antonio and Josè Rallo of Donnafugata create Ben Ryé, Passito di Pantelleria that tops each and every rating as the best sweet wine in Italy. The grapes for Ben Ryé are harvested from century-old vines, then dried by sun and wind for about one month.

Other two wines by Donnafugata also originate from Pantelleria: Lighea and Kabir, a premium and intriguing duo of totally different wines from Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) that is harvested in September when Muscat is ripe and full of sweetness.


Wines of Sicily — Etna.

The largest number of volcanic wines originate on islands and the mainland of Italy. Sicily is the most famous region of volcanic viticulture and owes its popularity to Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.

For a long time, vines on the slopes of the Sicilian volcano remained abandoned. However, in the 1990s, the region experienced a real upsurge thanks to several winemakers. These days, hardly any land plot remains vacant on the volcano slopes: there are approximately 150 wine farms on Etna, 140 of which emerged within the last 20 years.

Etna soils are extremely diverse and contain basalt, pumice, and a thick layer of volcanic ash. Because of regular eruptions, soil composition is constantly changing and vineyards are threatened by lava streams. Winemakers that grow grapes on Etna slope soils are related to heroic viticulture due to several reasons:

• Mount Etna is an active volcano and operations in this region impose a risk to life; 

• Soils on the slopes are rocky and difficult to work; 

• Slope height and steepness make winemakers’ work even more difficult.

Etna vineyards cover an area of 908 hectares. They are located at heights of 400 to 1000 meters. Two indigenous varieties prevail on the volcano slopes: Nerello Mascalese and Carricante.

Etna wines are often compared with wines from Burgundy, while the major local grape variety Nerello Mascalese is compared with Pinot Noir. Parallels between Etna and Burgundy are not incidental: on Etna, there are no large vineyards but over one hundred of small yards (contradas) and a whole gamut of various soils. Thus, one manufacturer may produce a dozen of Nerello Mascalese wines from different contradas and indicate their names on labels.

Wines of Pantelleria.

Pantelleria is an Italian volcanic island that lies 100 km off the Sicily coast and 70 km off Tunisia. The Pantelleria DOC is known for ancient volcanic soils (in this region, volcanoes erupted 30 million years ago) and for the Muscat of Alexandria grape variety. On this small island, some of the best white wines in the world are produced.

Pantelleria is the island of heroic wine-making. There, vines, planted on terraces into special holes in volcanic soil, virtually creep upon the ground. Harvesters on Pantelleria should make two to three times greater effort than usual to pick grapes.

Wines of Highlands
Stay up to date with the latest news
  • All
  • SimpleWine
  • Simple Wine News
Are you 18 or older?
Thank you for the honest answer
We do not display alcohol and tobacco products to persons under the age of 18