Ciro Biondi: Explosive Elegance of a Mount Etna White

Every now and then the pleasure of drinking a wine takes me completely by surprise. I open the bottle, knowing the wine is good, but then, there is some unexpected magic that takes hold. That happened last night with Ciro Biondi “Outis” Etna Bianco DOC 2013.

Italian friends had arrived and commandeered the kitchen to make Risotto Milanese (Saffron Risotto). Since Los Angeles is in the midst of a bizarre February heat wave with summer temperatures, I opened a light white to sip as we made dinner. The risotto called for something more.

For dinner, I poured the “Outis”. (In Greek, “outis” means “no one”. The name comes from Homer’s Odyssey when Odysseus is in the cave on Mt. Etna with the Cyclop, Polyphemus. He tells the giant that his name is “No One”. When he pokes the Cyclop’s eye out with a huge timber, the giant cries, “No one is hurting me.”)

Ciro Biondi and his wife and partner, Stephanie Pollack, make the wine in the Biondi cellar that dates back to the 16th century with grapes from old alberello vines in three different vineyards on the southeast side of Etna facing the sea. The predominant variety is Carricante with Cattarato and Minella. Carricante, like Chardonnay, has long aging capacity. This 2013 was beginning to evolve with a delicate complexity of aromas and flavors. (The grapes ferment in stainless steel, no wood.)

As Ciro explains in this video, however, the defining characteristic of the wine is less the grape variety and more the volcanic terroir. The Biondi vines grow on steep terraces that are 650-700 meters (2,100-2,300 feet) up the mountain. The soil, the altitude and the sea breezes give the wine remarkable minerality, making the wine wonderfully crisp rather than acidic. It was light in alcohol (12.5%) but tasted full, an ideal pairing for the buttery risotto.
(Previous posts)

Ciro Biondi
Corso Sicilia, 20
Trecastagni (CA)

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