Franchetti is the top wine produced at Passopisciaro, a Super-Etnean wine of petit verdot and cesanese d’Affile from volcanic rock and ash. The grapes were planted in the early 2000s after Andrea Franchetti purchased the estate in the contrada Guardiola – a dense planting with vines 90cm x 90cm apart, at 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level.
When he came to Etna, Franchetti imagined a wine that would be denser and more concentrated than the lighter-bodied and colored wines of the local variety. Thus, while the nerello wines are “wines of place” expressing their unique terroir, Franchetti is a true winemaker’s wine, expressing a particular vision of the maker.
In order to create the kind of volcanic wine he envisioned, Franchetti decided to plant the late-ripening Bordeaux grape petit verdot with cuttings from St. Julien alongside the more aromatic cesanese d’Affile, a grape from Lazio that he helped to save from extinction. Due to the volcanic soil, petit verdot becomes more peppery and spicy, leaner and stiffer in body, still with great structure. Cesanese d’Affile is a gentler, aromatic counter to the petit verdot, with great aging potential.
Then he waited several years for the vines to come into their own, and in 2005, he released the first vintage of his Franchetti wine, finally able to see whether his vision could be brought to light. The result is a concentrated wine, black like the lavic soil and plumes of smoke that Etna belches forth. Franchetti himself calls it “the wine that comes from an attempt to make a completely different wine on Mt. Etna, to express what my image of Aetnean wine could be like.”
The blend changes each year based simply upon which grapes are the best from that vintage, wed not to any predetermined recipe, formula, or even flavor profile, following just the taste of the maker, reflection his perception of the vintage. The vines undergo a rigorous ritual of green harvesting, leaving only five bunches on the vines, and then undergo malolactic fermentation and aging in new French oak. Franchetti’s distinct style is apparent throughout each wine and each vintage, year after year producing wines with a richness, a depth of flavor, and layers of complexity, which are the hallmarks of his wines.
“My tasting of Andrea Franchetti’s Etna wines was a revelation. Not so much for the quality of the wines that is and has always been beyond reproach, but for the full circle philosophical metamorphosis that they represent. Here you have the man who, in terms of its international appeal, invented the concept of Etna wine. He (and Marco De Grazia) brought the volcano to the world wine stage. Yet his flagship bottle back then was made with Petit Verdot and Cesanese d’Affile, two grapes that are completely out of place on the indigenous Etna wine scene. He was criticized for this but ultimately no one really held it against him because his wine nabbed sky high scores and brought the spotlight to this previously unknown region. Franchetti was also among the first to articulate the concept of Contrade that draws important parallels to the single vineyard or cru system that is so efficiently proposed in Burgundy and Barolo. The Contrade dell’Etna consumer tasting event that is held each year was his brainchild. So how could the man who unleashed Etna’s territorial expressions at such a profound level make Petit Verdot? Was he a visionary or was he behind the curve? The brilliant thing about Franchetti’s thinking is that he is both, and he continues to march to the beat of his own drum.”
— Monica Larner, Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, 2015