Ciro Biondi’s Cisterna Fuori 2000: Aged Etna in London

Clos Maggiore, a classic London restaurant near Covent Garden, recently offered a tasting dinner featuring Ciro Biondi’s Etna wines. The star of the evening was surely the Biondi Etna Rosso “Cisterna Fuori” 2000. After 14 years, it had become rich, layered, complex and velvety, but still had plenty of volcanic vivacity in terms of its strong minerality.

For me, it was worth the trip to London to understand the aging capacity of Biondi wine (and others made with care on the volcano). Since this level of quality wine has only been made since the 90s, we are only now beginning to understand what happens to them over time. I came away from the tasting with a promise to myself to put some Etna wines in the cellar (white as well as reds…see previous post on a ten-year vertical) even though its hard to resist drinking them now.

At the dinner, I was lucky enough to be seated with Ciro and his wife, Stephanie Pollock Biondi, (foreground) who began the renovation of the vineyards with him some 25 years ago and works on all aspects of winemaking from planting to pruning to harvesting and doing cellar work, administration and outreach.
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Ciro opened the evening with some family history (see previous post) and a brief description of his vineyards: Chianta (white grape varieties, primarily Carricante) and San Nicolò and Cisterna Fuori (red varieties, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio). He also underlined the fact that the defining characteristic of all Biondi wine is the Etna volcano itself, particularly the soil: lava sand and rock that gives the wine a lot of crisp minerality.
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Head sommelier, Jonathon Fillion paired each course with a wine:

Seared Rare Yellowfin Tuna Coated in Garden Herbs
Etna Bianco ‘Outis’ 2013
Ciro pointed out that these were the last remaining bottles of Outis for the vintage year. Outis, made from Carricante grapes out of the Chianta vineyard at 650 meters altitude, is fermented in stainless steel vats with only indigenous yeasts and released a year after harvesting. Its sapidity and palate cleansing crispness were an ideal foil for the richness of the tuna.
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Slow Cooked Shoulder of Hare from Windsor Royal Park
Chestnut Flour Pappardella & Wild Mushrooms, Madeira sauce
Etna Rosso ‘San Nicolo’ 2012
The slightly more feminine characteristics of San Nicolo were somewhat overpowered by this rich dish.
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Oven Roasted Breast of Quail from Loire Valley Confit Stuffed Quail Leg, Roasted Foie Gras Fondue of Savoy Cabbage, Foie Gras Sauce
Etna Rosso ‘Cisterna Fuori’ 2012 & Etna Rosso ‘Cisterna Fuori’ 2000 Magnum
With this course, we were able to contrast the current vintage of Cisterna Fuori with a classic one as noted above. Glass on the left was 2012 and on the right, 2000.
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European Artisan Blue Cheeses
Hand Baked Biscuits & Quince Jelly
Etna Bianco ‘Chianta’ 2013
2014-11-17 21.48.05Made with grapes of the same variety and from the same vineyard as Outis, Chianta is richer and more structured because it ferments and ages in well-used barriques. Ciro refers to it as “a white made like a red”. For this reason, it paired well with the cheeses. Note Its rich color.
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