Nero D'avola Grapes
Nero d'Avola is Sicily's most popular red grape, used in the region's bestselling varietal wine. Until the 1980s, commercial use of Nero d'Avola was dedicated almost exclusively to fortifying weaker reds in France and northern Italy. In the past Nero d'Avola, like other Sicilian reds, was often syrupy, with an alcohol content reaching eighteen percent --too strong as table wines. The name, which literally means "Avola Black," is a good description.
New viticulture techniques and night harvesting --placing the grapes in in cooled vats to present premature fermentation-- have been used by a few vintners to retain flavor without producing an overpowering wine. The result is often compared to Syrah, another popular red.
Boasting a singular climate, Sicily is blessed with consistent growing seasons from year to year, typified by lots of warm sunshine and very little rain. Vintage quality varies, of course, but not as much as it does in Burgundy or Piedmont.
Dozens of wineries, including many that are little more than part-time vintners bottling the results of private harvests, sell Nero d'Avola, much of it unexceptional. We tasted a few of the better ones. Here are some observations about the "pure" Nero d'Avolas we sampled at a recent blind tasting. Prices are Italian retail.