The Opimian Q&A: Giovanni Messina from Eudes
Giovanni Messina and Laura Torrisi make tiny lots of wine from hand-harvested indigenous varieties grown in the Etna appellation on Sicily’s east coast. They hope to transfer their passion for winemaking to their daughters Alice and Greta. Here is their story.
How did you get started in the wine business? Where does your passion come from? What is your connection to the land?
Since the age of five, I accompanied my father to our property on Monte Gorna. It seemed absurd to think that a child could be fascinated by this “world”. I remember my initial happiness, when work was still in progress for the recovery of the farmhouses and the sheep came to graze in the ground. I walked around the land with my dogs and enjoyed playing where the sheep grazed (I even witnessed the birth of a little lamb). I have a very strong bond with this place, indissoluble. Growing up, I increasingly felt the need to recover portions of the property where there was a small ancient vineyard, and after my university studies, I dedicated body and soul to a total recovery project that I am still carrying out with the new plants. As I always tell everyone, “spring has sprung” inside my heart, a spring that has resulted in an enormous passion, which I will try to transfer, with all my heart, to my two daughters, Alice and Greta.
What is your most memorable wine or wine-tasting experience?
I believe that every tasting has a personal character. I love to travel with my wines, because whether I am in Italy or abroad, they always reveal their sense of place, of Etna. My greatest satisfaction comes with blind tastings, in which my wines always seem to find their place alongside other wines of quality.
What do you enjoy most about being a winemaker?
Being a wine producer for me is like being the father of land: you have to recognize the need to give lots of care, lots of attention to your vines, managing them in the best possible way to get the best results, and, if necessary, lowering the yield so as not to overload. Taking care of your land, and loving it as if it were alive, best represents our philosophy. We maintain this passion and love throughout the year, and it shows in the final product.
What is special about winemaking in Sicily, on the slopes of the Etna volcano?
Producing wine on Etna is something unique. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy the land that nourishes its fruits to great effect: our grapes are rich in mineral salts present in the soil, from this magnificent volcanic area that we have worked so hard to cultivate. It is not for nothing that our viticulture is defined as “heroic”: since ancient times we have tried to make the most of this steep lava territory, building dry stone walls where necessary, terracing to build on what nature has provided (and how it has provided!). Our seaward exposure allows us to enjoy maritime winds, even at 800m, which gives all our wines a particularly unique flavour.
How many people work at Vini Eudes?
My biggest support comes from my wife, who is the tastings specialist, and my faithful general worker Alfio. For my part, I try my hand at a bit of everything, from the vineyard to admin. Depending on the time of year, I avail myself of the help of other workers. My oenologist, Angelo Di Grazia, is a point of reference for my company: I jokingly define him as my “psychologist”, as well as the psychologist of my wines. He is a great professional, and his input means that my wines are only getting better.
Do you use any special winemaking techniques that are particular to your region?
As we say with Angelo, there are no special winemaking techniques, but we do put a huge amount into making sure the vineyard gives us every advantage. The main work must be done in the vineyard, and the rest comes by itself. Well, maybe it is not so simple, but we have faith.
What is one of your favourite varietals to work with and why?
Those who know me know very well that I love Carricante, a white grape variety typical of Etna. I call it the “prince of Etna whites”. I am convinced that it is a special variety because if it is vinified in a respectful way, letting it express itself over time, it has truly magnificent aging potential.
I am fully convinced that Etna is starting to be talked about, and it will be noticed more and more as time goes by.
What is one of the hardest things about winemaking year in and year out?
Each harvest is a puzzle, especially on Etna–you never know what can happen. From scorching heat, sudden rain can occur that endangers a year’s work. Or worse, a hailstorm can destroy everything you’ve done up to that point.
In my opinion, certainly, every vintage is different from the other, with unique characteristics.
When harvesting late, between 10 and 15 October, there is a real danger of these sudden rains that can really ruin everything. Drought is also becoming a problem, but luckily for Etna, we are still able to withstand it.
Tell us about your Eudes Milleottocentoquaranta DOC Etna Rosso–where does the name come from, what was the outlook in creating it, and how is it best enjoyed?
I literally fell in love with this vineyard in 2017 after I took it over from an elderly man. The work is done entirely by hand, as mechanization is impossible, and it is better this way. The plantings are a majority of Nerello Mascalese, with a small amount of Nerello Cappuccio. I will certainly not be good at saying it with words, but I feel a great love for this vineyard, in fact, I consider myself a keeper of this territory, and as such I will do everything to keep it at its best. I consider myself a very simple person, and I wanted to let it do its own talking. The name “Milleottocentoquaranta” derives from the year the vines were planted–it’s an ancient, ungrafted vineyard that quietly commands respect.
Precisely because I do not want there to be external inputs, I decided, in collaboration with Angelo, to fine-tune it for 18 months in stainless steel, in order to best express the potential of the terroir and old vines.
As for tasting, I can say that when you drink such a wine, you feel enormously privileged that this is the fruit of vines that are a century old. It is profound.
In one word or sentence, what sums up your winemaking philosophy?
Our philosophy is rooted in the care of our terroir, respect, and the long patience it takes to wait for the natural evolution of the wines. We have placed our footprints on this land, making it ours, which if treated with love and care, will give back extraordinarily. There is a quote which I like to use: “Everyone leaves an imprint in the place they feel belongs to them most”.
Giovanni and Laura, Alice and Greta
Order these wines by October 24, 2022