Friday, January 21, 2011

Nero D'Avola, the black juice of Sicily

Literally, Nero D'Avola means "the black of (the town of) Avola". We are supposed to infer that one is speaking of the black juice, or wine, although it could be equally possible to be talking about the color Sicilians turn in the summer. That's not meant as a racist remark, but more of a slightly jealous observation on my extended family.

     I come from an Irish family, and can get a sunburn sitting in my living-room. My wife on the other hand, can get a suntan taking out the garbage. Am I jealous? Ok - perhaps a little.

     Sicily is the little island (little by Canadian  standards) just to the west of Calabria in southern Italy. Indeed, it is almost impossible to be any further south and still be in Italy.

     The Sicilians do consider themselves a different breed of Italian; dramatically different dialect, different cuisine... one gets the idea. And so, no less different do they consider their wine! The most well recognized of these is arguably the Nero D'Avola.

      Nero D'Avola was once a fantastically alcohol-driven wine, rivaling the mighty Zinfandel of California. Yes, back in the 1980's and earlier, one would see Nero with ABV of 17% or even 18%, the same as a light Porto or Madiera. These days, I am hard-pressed to find any stock in BC that has a higher ABV then 14.5%, which is strong, but no stronger then many Cab-Sauvs, Syrahs, and many other wines.

     Originally, as Nero D'Avola was native to Sicily, it was the primary varietal used. Now in the global marketplace that is the wine industry, Cabernet Sauvignon has become an important part of many Nero blends. There are other grapes as well that are grown in Sicily, but Cab-Sauv seems to be the most popular. I wanted to try 100% Nero to try and get a sense of the terroir.

2008 Cusumano Nero D'Avola, Sicilia, Italy
14.5% ABV, $20 CAD  **Decent Value**
100% Nero D'Avola grapes
  • visual:     clean; fully intense black-purple core with slightest cherry rim
  • nose:     clean; moderate- intense youthful aromas of blackberries, dark florals, cherries, cassis jam
  • palate:     clean; dry, moderate (raspberry/red currant) acids, moderate+ slightly chewy tannins, full bodied, full ABV, moderate+ intense youthful flavors mimicking the nose with lots of red and black berries, slight jamminess, strong oak presence, end notes of baked earth. Well balanced, moderate structure and moderate length (the wine gets mono dimensional quickly)
  • conclusion:   Even as this was my first Nero, I quickly concluded that it was either a marginal example of what the grape can be, or I just wasn't going to like Nero. After speaking with some colleagues, I'm going with the former. It's a decent wine if you want to sit and have an unassuming glass of wine... there is some action in the glass, but not so much that it would distract anyone from conversation
  • PAIRINGS:     Tough to pair this, because there isn't alot there. Use cuts of beef that are low in fat and subtle in flavor such a tenderloin. Also consider a bolognese with a touch of ground lamb in it!

       And so, after this somewhat lacklustre performance, I was encouraged to re-visit the BCLDB (BC Liquor Store) and seek a greater vintage... something that really spoke about Nero D'Avola and Sicilia.

2008 Sedara Nero D'Avola, Sicilia, Italy
by DonnaFugata
13% ABV, $22 CAD **Decent Value**

Winemakers Notes
With the new vintage Sedara continues its evolution from mono-varietal to a wine expressing and synthesizing the territory. To Nero d'Avola ( a grape that still prevails in the blend,with a bit more than 50%) are added some of international grapes (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah) grown on the winery's Estates .Additions that give the wine pleasant complexity and intensity.Refinement for 9 months in cement vats
  • visual:     clean; deep garnet core with light cherry rim
  • nose:     clean; moderate+ intense youthful aromas of red berries (cherries, raspberries, red currants), saskatoons, garrigue savory herbs, slight peppery spiciness, hot alcohol finish
  • palate:    clean; dry, moderate+to full (red currant) acids, moderate+ to full (chewy and a bit gritty) tannins, moderate body, moderate+ ABV, moderately intense youthful flavors of red berries, wood notes, tart pomegranate finish. Moderately well balance, moderate structure, short to moderate finish
  • conclusion:    Although it is an interesting wine, it isn't an especially well-crafted wine. It has more layers (and thus perhaps shows more of Sicily) then the Cusumano, but the layers themselves are perhaps not as well made. Drink now, will not improve with age.
  • PAIRINGS:   Drink this with big flavors! Wild meat would work especially well... braised venision osso bucco (which in Northern Canada is poor man's food)

Favanghina, Sicily

     So I learned a little about Sicilian Nero D'Avola today. It is capable of being a soft and well rounded wine, easy drinking and respectable - or it's more then capable of coming across like a red-head (fiery and tempestuous). I look forward to learning more, though I spend more time now that I'm almost 40 in quiet contemplation and much less time with red-heads!

 CIN-CIN~!!!   SLAINTE~!!!   CHEERS~!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment