This month the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group of writers are exploring Italy’s island wine producing regions. I am focusing my attention on Sicily more specifically, the eastern region of the Etna D.O.C. that surrounds the largest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna.
I tasted three wines from the Etna D.O.C. all made with indigenous grapes varieties. A Rosato made from Nerello Mascalese, a Bianco with Carricante and Catarrato, and a Rosso blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. After tasting the wines, I came up with three deliciously vibrant food pairings; burrata and strawberry cucumber salad with a Rosato, a very spring green soup with a Bianco, and a traditional Sicilian tuna spiedini with a Rosso.
What Makes Etna D.O.C. Wines Unique
- Volcanic soils formed from numerous eruptions resulting in mineral-rich soils of iron, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium.
- Ancient vineyards with ungrafted rootstock. (volcanic soils have protected the vines, making them resistant to phylloxera)
- High elevation vineyards up to 3300 feet above sea level
- A cooler climate compared to the rest of Sicily. The regions semi-circular shape around Mt. Etna spreading from north to south-west results in many microclimates from the differences in elevation, sun exposure and proximity to the sea.
- The indigenous grape varieties that make up the region’s D.O.C. wines;
Etna D.O.C. Bianco: Carricante (minimum 60%) Catarratto (no more than 40%) May include up to 15% non-aromatic grapes like Minnella or Trebbiano
Etna D.O.C. Bianco Superiore: Carricante (minimum 80%) Catarratto or Minnella (no more than 20%) Grapes come exclusively from the Milo area.
Etna D.O.C. Rosso/Rosato: Nerello Mascalese (minimum 80%), Nerello Cappuccio/Mantellato (no more than 20%) May include up to 10% other non-aromatic grapes, including white varieties.)
Etna D.O.C. Spumante: Nerello Mascalese (minimum 60%) May include up to 40% of other non-aromatic approved Sicilian varieties.
My Tasting and Food Pairing Notes
2017 Gambino Vini Tifeo Rosato, Etna Sicily
13% abv | $24.00 Total Wines | 100% Nerello Mascalese
Pale salmon in color and medium bodied. On the palate refreshing juicy acidity with notes of strawberries, watermelon, and minerals.
I paired this fresh, bright Rosato with a burrata and strawberry, cucumber salad. The berries are a classic pairing with the Rosato, and the rich, creamy center of the burrata cheese plays well with the strawberries and the fresh acidity of the wine. A fun pairing for the warmer months ahead.
2017 Gambino Vini Tifeo Bianco, Etna Sicily
12.5% abv | $24.00 Total wines | Carricante and Catarratto
Pale straw in color with a green hue. Medium- bodied with crisp acidity. On the palate citrus and mineral notes. Another perfect wine for the summer months.
A very spring green soup made for a harmonious pairing with the lightness of the soup and wine. The tangy yogurt and lemon in the soup are balanced with the citrus notes in the wine. The green vegetables accentuate the mineral notes found in the wine.
2016 Gambino Vini Tifeo Rosso, Etna Sicily
13.5% abv | $27.00 Total Wines | Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio
Pale to medium ruby in color. Medium bodied with a nice balance of acidity. A firm core of fine tannins that mellow after an hour. Earthy notes with minerals, tobacco and cherries that open up with time in the glass.
A Sicilian Tuna Spiedini is a traditional specialty that pairs well with the earthy characteristics of the Rosso. The richness of the tuna balances the acidity and tannins in the wine.
Burrata with Strawberry & Cucumber Salad
- 1 cup strawberries, sliced
- 2 small Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mint, torn into pieces
- flaky sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 4-oz. balls of burrata cheese
- In a small bowl, toss the strawberries, cucumbers, oil, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the burrata balls on a serving platter and gently tear them open to expose the creamy center. Spoon the strawberry and cucumber mixture around the cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Scatter the torn mint leaves over the cheese and strawberry mixture.
Very Spring Green Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small, (about 1 cup) leeks, white & light green parts, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups tightly packed baby spinach
- 2+ cups frozen green peas, thawed (extra for garnish)
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
- In a medium size soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 4-5 minutes or until tender and wilted. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat and add spinach and peas and stir to mix.
- Stir in the yogurt, parsley, mint, remaining salt, and lemon juice. Blend with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender.
- Soup can be served warm, room temperature or cold. Serve in a small or wide shallow bowl. Garnish with whole peas and chives.
Sicilian Tuna Spiedini
For the marinade
- 1 cup Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
For the Spiedini
- 3/4 lb. zucchini
- 6 long sprigs rosemary
- 1-1/4 lb. ahi tuna, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
- 2 lemons
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- finishing quality extra virgin olive oil
- flaky sea salt
- 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
For the Marinade
- In the bowl of a mini food processor, add parsley, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Purée mixture and set aside.
For the Spiedini
- Trim the ends off of the zucchini and slice 1/8 inch thick lengthwise on a mandoline.
- Build each skewer; alternating a rolled up zucchini slice (like a fruit roll-up), followed by a tuna piece. Each skewer should have 4 pieces of tuna. Between each element sandwich a small sprig of rosemary.
- Place the skewers in a rectangular glass baking dish and pour the marinade over the skewers. Turn and coat the skewers with the marinade. Set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature or 2 hours in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before grilling.
- Prepare a charcoal or gas grill or rectangular grill pan over high heat. Cut the lemons in half in the middle. Trim about 1/2 inch off the pointed end of the lemons.
- Remove the skewers from the marinade and discard the marinade. Season the skewers with salt and pepper. Grill the skewers for about 10-12 minutes total, turning half way through the cooking time or until cooked to desired doneness.
- While the skewers are grilling place the lemons on the grill cut size down for about 2-3 minutes and then turn for another 1 minute.
- To serve, place spiedini on a platter drizzle with finishing olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper, and grilled lemons.
For more adventures with the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group, join us on Twitter Saturday, April 6th at 11:00 am ET using hashtag #ItalianFWT. And check out more blog posts on Italy Island Wines below
- Steven from Steven’s Wine and Food Blog features Sicilian Pasta con le Sarde Wine Pairing
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass offers From Sardegna to Sicilia by Sea – Two Pairings
- Pinny from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings explores Sicily’s Marsala Wine – A New Product (Wine) Life Cycle that Started in the 18th Century but Continues to Thrive Today!
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla recollects Island Memories, Slow-Roasted Lamb, and Cannonau Di Sardegna.
- Lynn from Savor The Harvest is in the mood for Italian Island Wine Speak with Vinisola
- Cindy from Grape Experiences reveals Discovering Liquid Gold from Sardinia and Sicily at Chicago’s Coda di Volpe.
- Jennifer from Vino Travels tells the story of The Cultural Heritage of Mamuthone and Cannonau of Cantina Giuseppe Sedilesu.
- Susannah from Avvinare invites readers to Discover Aleatico from the island of Elba.
- Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm makes Oven Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Tartar Sauce paired with a Sicilian Grillo.
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares Island Wines of Italy: Alghero Torbato from Sardegna.
- Gwen from Wine Predator features Island Wines of Italy: 3 from Sicily Paired with Pizza.
- Jeff from FoodWineClick! is Dreaming of Italian Islands While We Wait for Spring.
- Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog tempts with Sardinian Vermentino di Gallura Paired With Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto.
- Nicole from Somm’s Table crafts A Passion for Sicily with Passopisciaro: An Interview with Sarah H. Bray, Part 1.
- Jane from Always Ravenous is Tasting and Pairing Sicilian Wine From Mount Etna.
- Cynthia and Pierre tell How a Wine Economists Conference Led Us to Wine from the Venice Lagoon.
- Jill at L’Occasion shares ‘300 Days of Sunshine’: The Vineyards of Sicilia DOC Interview with Alberto Tasca.