Bars Restaurants

121BC, Surry Hills

When planning a trip to Italy, the choice of destinations is often a difficult one. One is tempted to travel across several Italian regions, feasting on regional specialities and tasting the best in wine that each of the terroirs has to offer. If only travel time permitted such rail excursions that criss-cross the country efficiently.

To announce its connection with Trenitalia’s revamped train service and competitive price structure, Rail Europe, in conjunction with the Italian Government Tourist Board takes media guests on a culinary and wine tasting journey through Italy at 121BC Cantina & Enoteca.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
121BC Cantina & Enoteca

121BC takes its name from Roman literature where the first great vintage was recorded in history. The intimate wine bar in Surry Hills serves regional Italian share plates with a vast selection of wines.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Wine Journey through Italy, inside the 121BC cellar

Diners can walk around the long, narrow cellar which is organised from north to south. There are two black boards with maps, the first refers to the northern region, the second to the southern parts of Italy.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
The cellar

Hosted by Giorgio di Maria, co-owner of 121BC Cantina & Enoteca in Surry Hills, the virtual hop across Italy goes from Piemonte in the north-west, then east to the Veneto region, down to Toscana and further south to Campania.

121 BC
Giorgio di Maria

The taste journey begins with NV Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry, Drusian, Magnum served with Olive all’Ascolana, fried stuffed olives, both originating from the Veneto.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Olive all’Ascolana

Three wine brackets follow, each with “a crescendo of taste and intensity of flavours”, as Giorgio puts it when he introduces the food and wine journey.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Bracket One: Prosecco, Valfaccenda, Pieropan, Solare, Donnaluna

From Piemonte comes the 2011 Roero Arneis, Valfaccenda. Arneis is a local grape variety and Roero is the best area in Italy for cultivating it. Arneis is a perfumed wine with a lot of minerality which comes from the proximity to the sea. Next, is the 2008 Soave Classico La Roca, Pieropan from the Veneto. Soave is the most famous appellation of Veneto, a volcanic area with basaltic soil. Garganega is the grape and yields a wine that ages very well.

Toscana more renowned for its red wines but also for Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and Vermentino in the south. The latter is used to make the 2010 Solare, Fattoria Castellina on taste. On to Campania, the 2011 Donnaluna, Viticoltori Deconciliis (Fiano) comes from Cilento, in the central and southern part of Salerno, a warmer area also known for its buffalo mozzarella.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Roast zucchini, mint, almond sauce

Bracket one is accompanied by roast zucchini with mint and an almond sauce…

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Wagyu bresaola

a flavoursome wagyu bresaola, and the comforting soft polenta with Taleggio cheese.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Bracket Two: Piedirosso, Chianti, Hillberg Pasquero, Amarone

Bracket Two moves to red wines, starting in Piemonte, a region famous for its Barbera. The 2010 Vareji, Hilberg Pasquero has 85% Barbera and 15% Brachetto, the latter adding a touch of aromatics and more structure to lift the wine.

From the Veneto comes 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (50% Corvina, Corvionne, Molinara). The Corvina grape doesn’t have much colour or tannins so the grapes are dried for four months so they lose 40 to 50% in weight. This results in a concentrated wine that is high in alcohol (16%) and ages well.

Moving to Toscana, this is home of the Chianti with the 2011 Chianti Classico, Poggio Scalette on taste. Chianti usually has 80% Sangiovese and it’s not a full-bodied wine but one with lots of acidity and some tannins.

From Campania, the 2007 Piedirosso, Fattoria La Rivolta is the favourite in the bracket. Piedirosso is a specialty of the region and means “red foot” which refers to the red stem of the grape.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Chargrilled hanger steak with salsa verde

Bracket Two is accompanied by chargrilled hanger steak with salsa verde,

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Roman beans and bagna caoda

and a delicious side dish of Roman beans with bagna caoda, which is a sauce with butter, garlic and anchovies preserved in sea salt.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Bracket Three

From Piemonte, the 2011 Barolo, Gastaldi  is made from the Nebbiolo grape and aged for a minimum of 3 years. A young Barolo is too powerful and needs to be aged to mellow to get the right balance. This is an aromatic wine with violet and liquorice character with good tannins.

Montacino in Toscana is well protected by mountains so it’s much warmer than any area in the region. 2006 Brunello di Montalcino Reserva, La Fornace (Sangiovese) is a more structural wine, with a little spice, that has been aged for a minimum of 5 years. This wine is a Reserva, which means it has been aged for extra time

From Campania comes the 1999 Taurasi Riserva, Mastroberardino (Aglianico) which often referred to as the Barolo of the south.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Balsamic pork ribs

Rich, complex and structural, it goes well as an accompaniment to the balsamic pork ribs.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca
Formaggi, gorgonzola picante

The final wine is a sweet red from the Veneto, 2008 Recioto della Valpolicella L’Eremita, made of 50% Corvina with Corvionne and Molinara and is accompanied by formaggi with gorgonzola picante.

121BC Cantina & Enoteca

The food and wine journey comes to an end at 121BC but not without reigniting the passion for travel within Italy and experiencing its cultural and culinary diversity.

More information on Rail Europe’s Italy by Train services is available from the website below.

121BC is featured in Sydney’s top wine bars.

Rail Europe

4/50 Holt St (enter via Gladstone St)
Surry Hills, 2010


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.