Dating from early Greek settlements here, Nero d’Avola is one of Italy’s top five grapes and the most noble of Sicily. It is still known as Calabrese, meaning “from Calabria”, or possibly even derived from its ancient vernacular name, Calaurisi, meaning “coming from Avola”. In the past it was added to northern Italian and French wines to give added color and weight.
Today it is making a name for itself as one of the main grapes of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a DOC (appellation) in Ragusa where it forms 50-70% of the blend, and as a varietal, the best of which come from the coastal village of Noto in Siracusa, near Avola, and in neighboring Eloro. Ragusa and Siracusa provinces are both in southeastern Sicily near the coast. Most Nero d’Avola is trained on the labor-intensive alberello system used by the ancient Greeks.
Nero d’Avola wines have a deep, dark mysterious edge but other than that, are easy going. They are delicious straight out of the gate, with fragrant, ripe black cherry, blueberry, violet and earthy notes. Judiciously oaked, the wines become softer, sleeker, and rounder. In general the wines are described as vibrant and richly fruited with a firm core of acidity despite the warm origin. The more traditional styles age well. Some compare the grape to Pinot Noir, or even Nebbiolo which is probably closer to the mark, but it is totally unique. Try one of my top 12 picks below with ricotta fritters or rigatoni pasta with eggplant, tomatoes and ricotta salata.
grape goddess® recommends:
2012 Cusumano Benuara Terre Siciliana IGT $18
- Robust, full-bodied, and slightly chewy, with notes of sour cherry, fig, plum, earth, tar, button mushroom, turmeric, coriander seed, sesame seed, and celery. Finished with a glass stopper. Terlato Imports.
2011 Masseria del Feudo il giglio Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT $16.50
- With notes of strawberry, cherry pie, Fanta orange soda, and creamsicle, one might think this medium-bodied wine was from the warmer new world, yet distinct notes of tinder, moss, damp earth, and salami it home to Italy. Gentle acidity a slightly pithiness give it great food pairing ability. Gregory Condes Selections.
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Would you serve any of these wines by the glass, and why, or why not?