Mt. Etna Eruption Lights Up Sicilian Wine Country

Southern Italy’s famed active volcano spews ash, lava and good luck for Etna vintners

Mt. Etna Eruption Lights Up Sicilian Wine Country
The 10,000-foot tall Mt. Etna has erupted twice this week. (Courtesy of Planeta)
Feb 19, 2021

Here in the U.S., snow and ice have been keeping many of us indoors this week, but on the Italian island of Sicily, the skies were filled with smoke and ash. Mt. Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano, erupted late Tuesday afternoon, spewing a spectacular display of lava and other pyroclastic material.

“[It] was a super explosion, with a ‘cocktail’ of bombs, lapilli (stony or glassy lava fragments) and black ash,” said Alberto Aiello Graci of Etna’s Graci winery.

The Feb. 16 eruption, which was followed by a second eruption on Feb. 18, collapsed part of the cone of Mt. Etna’s southeastern crater. The lava flow traveled nearly a mile, and the explosion discharged smaller stones and ash primarily into the valley below. But savvy Sicilians learned long ago not to develop an area directly beneath their active volcano and, not surprisingly, the valley is largely unpopulated. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

 View of Mt. Etna erupting from Planeta winery
Mt. Etna’s eruption could be seen from the door of Planeta winery. Photo courtesy of Planeta

“Luckily, [the main activity] happens at 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet),” said Alessio Planeta, whose Planeta winery includes an Etna-based estate. He explained that it’s considered good luck when the volcano, known locally as “the Old Lady,” erupts. “The population was impressed, because this time the lava and the fire itself went really high.”

Etna’s vineyards top out at about 3,300 feet elevation, well below Tuesday’s volcanic activity. Although some vineyards may have received a layer of ash and other material, this is par for the course for Etna vintners. “[This time of year] there are no soft plant parts to be harmed,” Planeta noted, while Graci enthused, “The ash in the vineyards is what makes them unique in the world.”


Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.

Unfiltered Disasters Oddities Italy

You Might Also Like

Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix Fuels Up with 30,000 Bottles of Ferrari Trento

Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix Fuels Up with 30,000 Bottles of Ferrari Trento

Heitz Cellar’s Carlton McCoy, Provence’s Minuty and Champagne’s Piper-Heidsieck all bring …

May 12, 2022
Food Fighters: At ‘We Feed People’ Premiere, Hollywood Celebrates Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen

Food Fighters: At ‘We Feed People’ Premiere, Hollywood Celebrates Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen

From Hillary Clinton to Stephen Colbert to Eric Ripert, stars aligned at the New York …

May 5, 2022
Heitz Cellar’s Carlton McCoy Stars in ‘Nomad’

Heitz Cellar’s Carlton McCoy Stars in ‘Nomad’

The globetrotting Master Sommelier's new CNN docuseries is consommé for the wine and food …

Apr 29, 2022
How Much Is a Wine Book Collection Worth? $2 Million, Maybe …

How Much Is a Wine Book Collection Worth? $2 Million, Maybe …

Veteran California winemaker Sean Thackrey’s assemblage of more than 700 historic wine …

Apr 22, 2022
Actress Courteney Cox Joins Clos du Bois to Challenge Ageism in Wine Advertising

Actress Courteney Cox Joins Clos du Bois to Challenge Ageism in Wine Advertising

The Sonoma-based winery’s Long Live campaign champions a positive image of older wine …

Apr 21, 2022
Vinitaly 2022: Seen and Heard

Vinitaly 2022: Seen and Heard

Wine Spectator’s editors share a few highlights from the international wine fair in Verona, …

Apr 21, 2022