#Giro2020: The Peloton Heads to Mt. Etna and the Wines of Etna DOC

Before we talk about Sunday’s race, shall we catch up on what happened on Saturday?

Highlights from Stage 2

My predictions weren’t far off, with the break-away led by Thomas De Gendt and a few others staying away for most of the day. And, at the end, the “sprint” to the finish came down to Diego Ulissi of Team UAE and – wait for it – Peter Sagan!

I put the word sprint in quotes because, well, the last few kilometers were quite an uphill slog. Ulissi had strong support from his teammates, who helped the peloton eventually rein in the break-away. On the last climb, though, he was on his own.

Peter Sagan made his move late in the race, launching himself from the peloton to the leaders’ group with less than five kilometers to go. He tacked immediately onto Ulissi’s wheel and seemed poised to grab the stage victory.

But Ulissi was up to the task; Sagan wasn’t able to push past him in the end but he did manage an impressive second place. More important, he got the sprint points awarded to the day’s top finishers. To sum up the action: Filippo Ganna kept the maglia rosa, probably for just one more day; Ulissi grabbed the maglia ciclomino (Sagan is just six points behind him); and – surprise! – Sagan donned the maglia azzurra. An odd sight indeed, to see him in the climbers’ jersey.

Ganna kept the maglia bianca for best young rider.

My big take-away on Stage 2? I need to get to Sicily STAT! The production team has done an excellent job of showcasing the natural beauty of this Italian isle: ancient Greek ruins, natural salt lakes, rugged coastline. What could be more tempting to a wannabee traveler at this moment? Most images were presented with brief descriptions that prompted me to Google them for more specifics. I felt like I was planning a trip of my own; gosh how I wish I were!

Until that’s possible, here’s what’s on order for Sunday’s Stage 3:

Mount Etna Volcano (photo: Alberto Masnovo via iStock)

Stage 3: Enna to Mt. Etna

It’ll be a bumpy ride for the peloton on Sunday, with 150 kilometers of up-and-down racing to the foot of Mt. Etna. Then it’s straight up the side of the volcano to the finish. Sound tough? Take a look at the stage profile map and the video highlighting the course:

Stage 3 profile map (www.giroditalia.it)

I think it will be a day that leaves the sprinters in the lurch. Expect to see the climbers strut their stuff and the GC contenders to look for opportunities to gain some time. Weather conditions could play a part, especially if there’s rain in the forecast. In any case, Stage 3 will be hotly contested and should provide some breathtaking scenery as we near Mt. Etna. Take a look . . .

2017 Alta Mora Etna Rosso (14% abv; about $30 retail)

Alta Mora is the Mt. Etna project founded by brothers Diego and Alberto Cusumano. Beginning in 2013, they refurbished the terraced vineyards on Etna’s northern slope, and built a winery that takes advantage of the native lava rock to keep cellars cool and at the appropriate level of humidity.

Translating to “high black” Alta Mora comprises 12 hectares of Nerello Mascalese, one of Sicily’s most promising black grapes. Plots are scattered among four contrade (districts) on the slopes of Mt. Etna.

Contrade of Alta Mora (image: http://www.altamora.it)
  • Pietramarina has a unique sandstone subsoil thanks to millennia of lava flows, which contributes rich aromas and texture to the wine.
  • Solicchiata lies to the east, where vines experience salty sea breezes that keep them cool and dry.
  • Verzella is home to the winery itself, as well as a few hectares of the white Carricante grape.
  • Feudo di Mezza lies at 650 meters above sea level, contributing freshness and acidity to the wines.

Grapes are hand-harvested and tended carefully, under temperature-controlled conditions. The must macerates on the grape skins for 12 days at 28 degrees Celsius before undergoing malolactic conversion in stainless steel vats. The wine is then aged in 25 hectolitre barrels.

It is deep ruby in color, with complex aromas of black cherry, blackberry, pepper, and wild herbs. On the palate it has medium+ acidity, high alcohol, medium+ tannins, and medium+ body. Flavors are a melange of ripe black fruit, wet rocks, thyme, and tobacco. The Alta Mora Etna Rosso is a delicious food wine but is quite lovely on its own. If you’ve never tasted Nerello Mascalese, I highly recommend it.

Cheers to Sunday with the peloton.

I’ll see you tomorrow with a preview of Monday’s Stage 4.


  1. Kudos to Sagen! I’m curious, you note Nerello Mascalese as one of Sicily’s promising black grapes. It’s certainly one of the lesser knowns getting attention. I believe Nero d’Avola will always be popular but perhaps a changing of the guard for the spotlight?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right on! I really love Nerello Mascalase and will never forget the first time I had it: in New Orleans at a great Italian restaurant. Blown away! I’d never heard of it then but now it seems as if Etna is the hot (forgive the terrible pun) new place. Watching the Giro is making me jones for a trip when we’re able. Thanks for reading – glad you’re enjoying the updates. 🙂


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