Words by Gargi Guha
The imposing existence of Etna is everywhere in Eastern Sicily. Anywhere you go, there she is!
This ubiquitous presence of Etna’s grandeur is an ever felt, unshakeable thing. Much like a mother, she’s always there in one’s life. And, also just as only mothers can be, she’s sometimes ill-tempered and cantankerous, spewing out lashes of hot volcanic mass, in a fit of rage. Just to get a perspective, since late 2020 there were suggestive tremors and in 2021 there have been a series of spectacular burps of clouds of gas, hot air and outrushes of fiery lava plumes.
Inspired by this magnificence, which is both awe-inspiring and esoteric, the IDDA wines from the house of Gaja, encapsulate the essence of Etna. This joint venture between producers Angelo Gaja and Alberto Graci was announced a few years back, and now it’s time to uncork this fruitful collaboration.
IDDA: Labour of love
IDDA means ‘she’ in the Sicilian dialect. It is a term that locals use to refer to the grandiose Mt Etna, the jaw-dropping fixture of the island.
IDDA Bianco and Rosso are two wines that are a true homage to the spirit of Mama Etna. The vineyards are located in the villages of Belpasso and Biancavilla between 2,000- and 2,600-feet elevation on the Southern slope of Mt Etna.
Early seeding of the idea
Angelo Gaja was intrigued with Etna’s magnificence and unique terroir lending to the viticulture here, in the late 1990s. He was initiated to Etna wines by his friend and oenologist, the great Giacomo Tachis, better known as the father of super Tuscan wines. This early seeding of the idea remained in Angelo’s heart until he met Alberto Graci in 2015, a former investment banker turned oenologist. He noticed a spark in this young Sicilian and soon the two families formed synergies around an artisanal approach to winemaking. The bonds translated into a joint venture.
The unique microclimate and lava-enriched terroir worked magic for the autochthonous grapes of this area.
IDDA Bianco is a 100% Carricante, and the first vintage produced is 2018. On the nose, this wine has citrus fruits and hints of herb. Think grapefruit and thyme with a mere whisper of mint and jasmine too. On the palate, it has expansive citric fruit, manifested through its many layers and ending on a slightly bitter and pith-like finish. Fresh, vibrant and pleasing is how one would describe it.
IDDA Rosso is a blend of 98% Nerello Mascalese and 2% Nerello Cappuccio, and its first vintage produced is 2017. It is reminiscent of black cherries and mulberry, but also has some spice notes, especially on the nose. Revisit the glass, and you’re sure to catch some candied fruit in there as well. The fermentation and aging for a total of 24 months in oak and concrete certainly lends its depth and character to this wine.
The labels are swirls in red and blue. In fact, concentric, repetitive swirls. The design is evocative of the varied aspects of nature such as the lava, sea, altitude and concentric terraces of the vineyards. They also draw from the fact that a spiral is an ancient symbol of continuity and flow.
IDDA showcase post the pandemic
In September 2021, Angelo’s daughter, Gaia Gaja showcased the wines to a select group in London, where she proudly presented the 2019 and 2020 vintages of IDDA Bianco and the 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages of IDDA Rosso to an appreciative cache of aficionados.
Gaja stated; ‘I am delighted to share the new vintages from IDDA, founded in 2016 by my family together with the Graci family on the southwest side of Mount Etna. The small quantity we have produced over the past few years and travel restrictions have not allowed me to present the wines publicly and physically until now. However, after a break of more than one year and a half, I could finally fly to London to present the project to the English media, for the first time.’ She certainly has plans of taking IDDA to many other markets and to eager wine enthusiasts.
Elegance and complexity are both found in large measures in the IDDA wines. They are the closest expressions of one of the world’s most unique locations; on the southern slopes of Etna.
And, while this landmark of Sicily has emerged as one of the hippest wine regions of late, it will be interesting to see the Gaja hallmark of Piedmont unfurl here, all under the watchful eye of Mother Etna.
Image at the very top shows – from left to right – Giovanni Gaja, Gaia Gaja, Rossana Gaja, Alberto Graci and Elena Graci.