January 15, 2012

Nero D'Avola

We found out about Nero D'Avola when we were in Sicily, its homeland. It's a funny little grape that does very well in the dry heat and volcanic soil there, and often comes out tasting like a medium-body new world Syrah. It was cheap and plentiful and we could grab a bottle anywhere when unpacking a picnic lunch.

It's also poorly represented here in BC so whenever we find a bottle from a winemaker we haven't tried before, we buy it. Our most recent find was this one by Purato.

It was not a success. When Nero D'Avola is good, it is plummy, spicy and backed by a tannic structure that you might expect from a grape that grows in mineral-rich pumice. This stuff was too light-bodied for a hot climate grape, and what it lacked in fruit it made up in an strange chemical, brettanomyces quality.

We're not surprised about the "brett" characteristics. Organic vineyards cannot use sulphur dioxide, the simplest and most effective solution to this notorious yeast problem.

We hope Purato will be able to control these challenges in coming vintages. It would be great to have a Nero D'Avola that lived up to our memories of meals in Sicily.
Picnic lunch on the ferry from Palermo, Sicily to Tunis, Tunisia. The big plastic cup is filled with Francesco Nicosia Nero D'Avola (see below).


These are some Nero D'Avola labels scanned from our travel journals:

Baroni San Lorenzo: Notte Di San Lorenzo

Our notes say we had this with shrimp and pasta and then finished it the next day with leftovers. Did we like it? Probably, although we didn't buy it again.

Rallo Vesco Rosso

Blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, as is much of what is available in BC. Again, no tasting notes in the old journals, unfortunately.

Francesco Nicosia Due Neri

This blend was our second favourite. The Nerello Mascalese is another Sicilian grape that makes earthy, flowery wines, which goes nicely with the fruity, peppery qualities of the Nero D'Avola.

Francesco Nicosia Nero D'Avola

This is the one we grabbed whenever we could find it. It was only 3 Euro per bottle. Rich, fruity, peppery with still enough acid to make it a great food accompaniment. Probably not as good as we remember, but if we never have it again, our memories will remain pure.

Cono Sur Organic Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenère

After knocking organic wines at the top of this post, we feel we should mention an undervalued, organic treasure. This Chilean star is only $14.50 here in BC, and that is a steal for what you get: well-made Cabernet Sauvignon with cherry-leathery darkness and a mid-palate backed up by the tobacco and black fruit of the Carmenère. We have been drinking this one since the 2006 vintage and it has been a reliable, delicious treat. Highly recommended.

Bonus points: the cute pun in the company name. It should be an eye-roll, but it's actually pretty clever.
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