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Etna eruption threatens DOC vineyards

Lava from Europe's most active volcano is within strolling distance of some of Sicily's top vineyards. The weekend's eruption of Mount Etna has also left winery roads and property in tatters.

‘The whole of Catania province has come to a standstill,’ says Giovanni Scilio, owner of Tenuta Scilio di Valle Galfina in the heart of the Etna DOC appellation. ‘We are very worried that the eruptions will continue. Right now, the lava is just 3km from our vines and winery.’

The volcano, which lies on the eastern half of the island, began erupting on Sunday morning, 27 October (pictured). The flames were followed by earth tremors which reached over 4 on the Richter scale. Producer Barone Scamacca del Murgo took the full brunt of an earthquake, suffering damage to estate housing, winery roofing, and roads leading to and through the property.

‘We’ve grown used to eruptions, but we never expected an earthquake,’ Michele Scamacca said. The up-and-coming winery, which makes the impressive IGT San Michele Cabernet Sauvignon, has yet to count the full cost of the damage.

There have been two main eruption sites, the first on southern slopes 2200 metres above Nicolosi. A second eruption occurred on the volcano’s northeastern side, above the organically farmed vineyards of Valle Galfina’s 20-hectare holding. Tongues of fire reaching 100 or more metres into the air were reported.

Below Galfina, sand ash 10cm thick covers the rooftops of the ski town Linguaglossa, and hundreds of families have already been evacuated from damaged homes in the area. Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi yesterday declared a state of emergency in the region.

Written by Michèle Shah in Italy31 October 2002

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