Ciro and Stefanie Biondi: Etna Volcano Wine

It’s hard to describe the joie de vivre of these two. Despite the near “mission impossible” task that they took on in 1999 of making the highest quality wine from family vineyards that had been abandoned and their recent decision to separate from Vini Biondi to start their own company, Az. Agricola Biondi (www.levignebiondi.it), they seem like newlyweds seeing everything with a sense of wonder.Their wine expresses their joyful way of being and the essence of this wild and beautiful place.

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Stefanie, who is British, takes me into the Biondi family cellar where Etna wine has been made since the 1700s. This barrel bears the name of Ciro’s grandfather, Cirino, who energized and expanded the family business in the early 1900s.

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She gives me a taste of Biondi Outis “Nessuno” Etna Rosso DOC 2012, which will be bottled and sold in 2014. Outis Rosso was the wine that made the Biondi label famous. The last vintage made was 2008.

In 2012, Ciro and Stephanie formed a new company, Le Vigne Biondi, independent of other family members (following the liquidation of Vini Biondi). Now, after a four-year hiatus they are about to release Outis Rosso again, this time under their own label.

“Outis” in Greek and “Nessuno” in Italian mean “Nobody” and refer to the passage in Homer’s Odyssey when Odysseus is trapped in the cave of Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclop, on Mount Etna. Odysseus tells the monster that his name is “Nobody” so that Polyphemus screams, “Help! Nobody is attacking me!”

The wine’s a magical combination of the two native grapes Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from the Chianta and Cisterna Fuori vineyards at 650 meters facing East toward the sea: earthy but elegant, fiery but soft, drinkable but with the capacity to age for a long time.

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Stefanie takes me to see the Chianta vineyard first. Beginning in 1999, with the help of Salvo Foti, Stefanie and Ciro repaired the terraces and brought the old “alberello” (each vine is a “little tree”) back into production.

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Grapes on an alberello vine, ready to be hand-harvested.

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Next, we go up to the Cisterna Fuori vineyard, a few kilometers away, dominated by this volcanic cone.

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Ciro joins us at this outdoor kitchen/terrace in the middle of the Cisterna Fuori vineyard.

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We taste the new wines of Le Vigne Biondi, named for the vineyards. Biondi Cisterna Fuori Etna Rosso 2011 (€40-43) and Biondi Chianta Etna Bianco DOC 2012 (€30-35). The wines are precious since only a couple of thousand bottles of each have been produced, but Stefanie and Ciro pour generously for me. A beautiful evening in a magical place.

www.levignebiondi.it

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