Dining out one spring evening at a favorite Neapolitan pizzeria, we chose a bottle of Nero d’Avola wine to accompany our meal. Not being entirely familiar with this varietal, I was curious to know more. Nero d’Avola is a dark black grape with origins in the Italian island of Sicily where the climate is primarily warm and dry. Although this is a centuries-old varietal, Nero d’Avola was primarily used as a blending grape until about thirty years ago when it began to be produced as a single varietal wine. If you were to place Nero d’Avola in a wine category, you would find it similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot but much less overpowering than a Zinfandel or Syrah. There seems to be two wine-making styles when it comes to producing Nero d’Avola wine. Some winemakers produce rich, dark fruit-forward wines aged in oak barrels while others produce softer, more elegant wines showing notes of herbs and with little or no oak aging. The preference of wine style is really a matter of taste as both appear to be popular. The bottle that we chose for our dinner was a 2016 Feudi Branciforti dei Bordonaro Nero d’Avola. This wine is from the province of Trapani. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged in American oak barrels for two months. This was a most enjoyable wine! The color in the glass was a dark, ruby red. the nose, there were notes of black cherry, earth, plum, tobacco and black pepper. It was fruit-forward, dry and smooth with soft tannins and acidity. This was a food-friendly wine that paired very well with the gooey rich, meaty Neapolitan style pizza we shared. It would also pair well with grilled meats, grilled tuna or swordfish, burgers with barbeque sauce or a rich mushroom dish. You can find Nero d’Avola wines in most wine stores. It’s a great value with many bottles pricing at under $20.00.
I think you’ll be seeing more Nero d’Avola wines on wine shelves in the coming years. In additional to Sicily, there are a handful of producers in some regions of California, South Africa and Australia who are starting to make wines with this hearty, dry-climate-loving varietal. Cheers!
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