Nero d’Avola

A long time ago, 1994, in a city far away, roughly 189 miles, I had my first sip of Nero d’Avola. And at the time I wasn’t the wine geek I am today. In my early 20’s it wasn’t cool to be drinking wine (the Cosmopolitan was my drink of choice). Not until I reached 30 did I start becoming a wine focused “grown up.” And by this time Carrie Bradshaw had brought the Cosmo mainstream. Being a grown up I wanted something more sophisticated, and wine was the perfect fit. Classy, stylish and always on-trend. How could wine not be trendy with thousands of varietals to choose from?

When I did drink wine in my 20’s it was almost always Cabernet Sauvignon. Trying Nero d’Avola was pretty cool because it had the tannin of a Cabernet but the body and weight of a Syrah. And I can say that now because I’ve drunk a ton of Syrah since 1994. Nero d’Avola, grown in the town of Avola in the southeast corner of Sicily, is a dark black grape also known as Calabrese. It is the most widely planted red grape in Sicily with 34,600 acres under low-trained vines. With its rich tannin and medium acidity levels and flavors of plum, black fruit and cocoa, it makes for a great varietal to age in barrel and to blend. A famous Sicilian blend is the SP68 by Ariana Occhipinti, a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato.

It has taken Nero d’Avola a long time to hit the mainstream because of the crazy European laws that tell grape growers how much they can grow. Nero d’Avola and many other varietals were not used to make wine but instead to make grape concentrate. This concentrate has/had many uses, mostly to flavor cheap wine and as a blend for other fruit juices. Think about it the next time you buy a bottle of wine that’s less than $10. Is the winemaker really picking the grapes at their ripest? Are they buying bulk grapes and not knowing the varietal, or using 52% Cabernet and the rest a blend of... grape concentrate and filler? When you think about everything that goes into making wine, from picking, crushing, fermenting, aging, bottling, corking, labeling, boxing, storing, shipping, storing again, distributing and finally landing on a retailer’s shelf... all of that for under $10? Grapes are expensive, chemicals and fillers are cheap.

{John steps down from his soapbox and introduces the first Great Sip.}

Terrasol Tracce Nero d'Avola 2013; $16

Terrasol is the second label made by Giorgio Poidomani and his son Stefano. Their first label is Memorie Della Terra, a small line of sulfite-free wines. The Tracce wines have very low sulfites, which is good for your liver. {Thought bubble: get off the soapbox.} The Nero d’Avola is a lively wine with balanced acidity, tannin and a medium body with flavors of red berry fruit and some spice. A great introduction to this sun and heat loving varietal that will pair with pizza and tomato based pasta sauces.

Posted on January 2, 2015 and filed under Wine.