In the inaugural post of a brand spanking new monthly series we look at the wines, the food, and the people of the Terroni restaurants.
Perennially known and respected for having one of Toronto’s most exciting and forward-thinking Italian wine programmes, we felt that a monthly exploration of Terroni’s wine selections accompanied by specific dishes from their many different outposts would make for the basis of a most exciting ongoing series.
With this in mind, this month we sit down with Terroni cohort, Cavinona wine maven, and GFR regular Gianna Sami at La Bettola di Terroni to taste the 2013 Biondi “Outis” Etna Rosso DOC together. This particular wine, a real favourite of Gianna’s and mine, you’ll find at all Terroni locations as well as being available by the 6-pack through Cavinona.
Gianna has intimate knowledge of both the winery and vineyards, having visited them on one of her numerous Italian trips over the years. She tells me that Ciro Bondi’s family have nurtured vineyards in the southeastern shadows of Mount Etna since the 1800s, first selling wine labelled with the family name just over a century ago. The current iteration of the Biondi estate consists of some three vineyards situated approximately 600 – 800m above sea level around the small town of Trecastagni, and is over seen by the aforementioned Ciro (originally an architect by trade) and his British wife, Stef. The vineyards are farmed organically, and always have been. The older gentlemen working the ungrafted 80 to 130 year old vines would have it no other way.
I cannot stress enough that these vineyards are located on the slopes southeast of Mount Etna, as these iron, sulphur, and manganese-rich soils bring something very particular to the wines produced there. Many of the Etna wines we see come from the northern slopes of the volcano, where the soils tend to produce wines that are darker, and noticeably more structured, with those of the southeastern vineyards more often being lighter, and as Gianna puts it, a bit more feminine in nature. Indeed, in order to add a touch more colour to the wine, a 20% portion of the darker Nerello Capuccio grape is blended into this Nerello Mascalese-dominant bottling.
The name “Outis”comes from the Greek word for “nobody”, with the Italian word for the same, “Nessuno”, being placed below the Outis on the label. Outis refers to Odysseus’ run in with Polyphemus, the mythical Cyclops on Mount Etna. When asked his name by the fearful Cyclops, according to Homer the plucky Odysseus replied “Outis!”, and hence the wine found its name, Ciro Biondi wishing his wine to speak to the Etna vineyards from whence it came, and certainly not the Winemaker’s hand.
Upon nosing the wine Gianna finds red fruits with a bit of a balsamic note, to which I counter with a strikingly bright, red cherry component that I find follows through onto the palate. There’s a pleasant nutty aromatic there, one that no doubt has a little something to do with the wine’s ageing in older (read; neutral) 250 and 500 litre barrels.
Despite having a most attractive bouquet, it was the palate that I was particularly drawn towards… great acidity, undeniably minerally and earthy, with a delightful finesse in the mouth, soft and velvety tannins that are at the same time pleasingly assertive. The Outis Rosso really does have superb texture, particularly on the mid-palate. This wine is all about elegance and finesse, and that is most fitting seeing as Gianna earlier made mention of its similarities to the hallowed Pinot Noir, and I had just begun to find echoes of Nebbiolo contained within.
It is by no means a light wine, something that its appearance in the glass belies… it’s very much a medium-bodied wine, and one that undoubtedly screams for food, its equilibrial fruit/acid/tannin axis making it a seriously versatile dinner guest.
La Bettola di Terroni Chef, Costantino Guzzo, a Sicilan native, suddenly arrived bearing a couple of plates from his new menu: Carpaccio di Funghi e Parmigiano (Raw King Oyster mushrooms w/ Parmigiano, walnuts & pink grapefruit) and Papardelle Con Porchetta (Handmade pasta w/ slow roasted pork shoulder & Pecorino Romano… an occasional special at the restaurant). Having skipped lunch due to cramming a number of work commitments and deadlines, this was certainly turning into a rather pleasurable afternoon…
Gianna and I both found delightful harmonies between the nuttiness of the wine alongside the crunchy walnuts, a synergy between the velvety texture of the raw King mushrooms and the supple, pleasing fine-grained tannins present, the wine’s acidity balancing perfectly with the citric punch from the dish’s grapefruit component. To be honest, I could have sat there all afternoon enjoying this most fruitful of combinations.
With the Porchetta Parpadelle there were also many complimentary flavours and textures that we found: the wine’s inherent acid profile jamming side by side with the fattiness of the pork, the rosemary bringing out myriad complexities in the wine’s mineral, earthy profile. Again we had found another dish that was a more than worthy companion for this beguilingly delicious, and supremely versatile Etna wine.
(Four and half apples out of a possible five)
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And expect to see Gianna featured as one of our next Young Blood Sommelier profiles in the coming months.