Week 8 – Nero D’Avola

Tasting notes

Corte Ibla Nero D’Avola Single Estate 2015 – £12.50

Emma says: “Last night I was at a wine tasting. An unusual one, since I was told before I even tasted the wines I couldn’t buy them. They were already all bought, and too expensive for me.

I then saw the labels of these wines and it threw me even more. No words, just pictures of a semi clad ghetto-tastic lady holding a machete and sitting on a car. The winemaker was lovely, but when he came to describe his wines he spoke more about the inspiration for the labels than the wines themselves. I’m saying this because i’m not feeling much like tasting Nero D’Avola tonight. I drank a little too much of those wines….

I actually find that tasting wine whilst feeling a little “off colour” can be a very good test. The wine is going to have to try extra hard to impress me. We’re trying the Corte Ibla Nero D’Avola Single Estate 2015 which is £12.50. So we’ve pushed the boat out a little in Nero D terms. The first sniff is impressive, it has moody dark fruits with a nice herbal tinge, quite baked and heady in aroma giving a clue to the warm Sicilian climate. I know this wine is made from old vines which produce low yields with more intense flavours, and you can already sense that. On the palate this is a serious wine, it is loaded with dark spicy plum fruit but also has a nice smoky mineral dimension that gives it far more complexity than your average pizza restaurant Nero D. Although I have said it is serious I think there is something quite easy to enjoy about Nero D’Avola, it has a tutti frutti mid palate and the tannins are present but quite loose and smooth. The alcohol is warming at 13.5% but this grape holds its acidity well despite the climate conditions so it feels nicely in balance.

I’m hoping this is a wine that people who typically enjoy Malbec would find a good alternative. It has the gutsy flavours and spicy richness that should mean it ticks the same boxes.

As for food matches, this is a structured red so it would be a great match for red meats or winter stews. If you go with the logic that wines go well with local cuisine then I would try it with tomato based dishes, potentially using olives and a bit of chilli. Sicily has a really interesting cuisine that blends the traditional Italian flavours with more spicy North African influences.  A puttanesca sauce would be a great match for that reason.

And finally did this glass convert me back to drinking? The truth is no, I’m looking forward to moving onto a glass of water. But I’m sure my doctor would be relieved to hear that.”

Andy says: “Sloppy Giuseppe, Capricciosa, Nero D’Avola, Quattro Stagioni. To paraphrase Sesame Street, “one of these kids is doing its own thing”, and the ‘kid’ here is Nero D’Avola. It’s not a pizza. Not a pizza not a pizza not a pizza. It should be, but to the best of my knowledge (aka ‘Google’) it isn’t.

Whilst on my Google pizza quest, I learned that “Nero D’Avola” is Italian for “Black D’Avola”. Nero being Italian for black, and D’Avola being Italian for  D’Avola. Who knew?

I jest, of course, I always knew the Italian for “D’Avola”. (In all seriousness, Avola is a city/town in Sicily, and it’s a black grape from there. “Nero D’Avola” = “Black from Avola” – thanks Google!).

I was looking forward to this one, as I think I like full bodied reds, and the whole point of this 52 Grapes nonsense is to help me work that out. I still don’t quite know what ‘full bodied’ means. I would say this was definitely toward the ‘full’ end of the spectrum, but could be ‘fuller’.

Slightly leathery on the nose, and a bit of a burn after the swallow. The former (I’m told) being a characteristic of a warm climate red, and the latter being a sign of the ABV. It’s only 13.5%, but tastes more. Fruit wise, it’s at the dark end – plum, cherries, brambles etc. Andy tip: At my basic level, it’s not necessarily about tasting those specific things, it’s more of a profiling task. Is it green fruit (apple, pear, gooseberry), red fruit (strawberry, raspberry, redcurrant), or black fruit (plum, black cherry). If I get that sorted, then next would be trying to pinpoint where in each of those scales I feel the wine is.

In summary – and bearing in mind the price compared to others of a similar profile – this is a keeper.”

Buying Guide

Lovers of Malbec, Syrah or Cabernet – this one may be for you.

This week I’ve chosen Nero D’Avola. The honest truth is that I wanted to select a grape that could only really come from one place (and has one name) because I’m getting tired of the showdown between one region and another when I choose which country to try a grape from.

Thankfully “Nero D” is the king of Sicilian red grapes, which makes it nice and easy. Unless you happen to live in France where I hear you’d be hard pushed to find anything more southern than the Rhone.

And if you do want one tip above and beyond “head to the red Italian section of your local shop”,  I would say that “Vittoria” region of Sicily is where the best versions come from. Also that the bargain bucket Nero D’Avolas can be lovely, but if you trade up a little to £10 or more then you will get a chance to taste the sophistication this grape can achieve. And the Sicilians will love you for it!

15 thoughts to “Week 8 – Nero D’Avola”

  1. (Catch-up!)

    Wine -Nero Oro Appassimento 2016 (Majestic £9)
    Bottle says – soft berries, spice

    Not a wine I remember trying before, but definitely the greatest find yet on 52Grapes! This is what it’s all about.

    Rich deep red in colour, and with a spicy, soft, rich, vanilla pod, fruity, juicy feel on the nose. Off to a good start indeed. The vanilla pod side to it really comes through on the tasting, with a very spicy/creamy vanilla flavour dominating at first, then the soft red and black fruits start to come through, with very little tannins to temper the fruity edge. The finish was long and pleasantly dry. I really enjoyed this wine a lot. I can’t wait to try a few different examples of this wine; and the creaminess especially opens up a whole world of food matching opportunities

    I was totally impressed with my new friend, and will be adding this wine to my rotation immediately. Thanks Emma, for introducing us 🙂

  2. Don Antonio 2013 NERO D”AVOLA Morgante

    Black Plum aroma. Juicy fruits of cherry, plum and blackberry with a touch of licorice and smokey finish. Nice acid along with good balance and a velvety tannin that lingers. We knew we would not finish the entire bottle and used a coravin to preserve and drink another day. Everything we experienced with this wine was not there at the next tasting…recommend finishing the entire bottle on opening.
    This wine was an explosion of fruit and I would enjoy it again with the proper pairing of food.

    1. Hi Jan, really nice notes. And a good reminder to me to use the Coravin I own. But I guess on this occasion is wasn’t the best idea. Maybe with those few extra years of age it just couldn’t hold. Nero D is a wine I tend to drink young for its youthful appealing fruit character.

  3. Corolla Nero D’Avola 2016 Sicily 13%, £8 from Majestic

    Nothing particularly complicated about this wine, I mean that in a positive way. It’s a light medium bodied red i think,nice and easy to drink. Blackberry was the flavour I picked up on most.

    Again, really nice to discover a new wine, which I probably would have otherwise overlooked.

    1. Hey there, great to have you board. Nice to get a wine mentioned from Majestic. We’ve been meaning to head out to our local to pick up a few. Sounds like you got a classic Nero D for all its easy going charm.

  4. Rapitalá Nero d’Avola 2016 13.5%

    The first few wines I had tasted before, but now we are in to new territory. Which must be what 52 Grapes is all about.

    My wife doesn’t drink wine but caught a waft of the Nero and proclaimed “That smells nice”. But let us not get ahead of ourselves!

    This wine is deep purple in colour, right through into the meniscus. Spill this, and the stain isn’t coming out!

    The wine has been in the glass for quite a while as the ‘tasting’ was interrupted by a video. First thing that catches me is an inky smokiness, followed by thick, stalky fruit. Also catching cabbages and a bit of sulphur. If the smell was a colour it would be brown. So, while I have been watching the film the aroma that surprised my wife has been released to leave an intense, inky aroma.

    For a wine of 13.5% abv and such an intense colour it is surprisingly thin on the palate. My mouth is filled with burnt, stalky flavours which swamp any fruit.

    Again, for such a big wine it has a surprisingly short finish.

    This is a real disappointment for me, especially as this isn’t a cheap wine. Not for me at all. I had expected burnt characteristics from a Sicilian wine but had hoped to find some fruit in there for balance.

    1. Hi Ian,

      What a shame. Doesn’t sound like you got the best representation of the grape.

      Let’s hope you find a better one another time.


  5. Funnily enough it was over a glass of Nero d’Avola at a birthday party before Christmas that Emma told me about 52.grapes. I thought it was a great idea and made it a New Year’s resolution to have a ‘wet January’ and drink more wine in 2018! And might I take the opportunity to say how much I’ve been enjoying it so far? I’ve learnt loads too.

    So, I really wanted to like the Nero d’Avola I bought (Tenuta Rapitala 2016, £9.99 from Waitrose, 13.5%).

    In appearance it was clear dark garnet with pronounced legs. On the nose it was quite a red berry explosion – a got strawberries and cherries. It seemed very youthful and light – perhaps in need of a bit of time to settle down.

    It wasn’t hugely complex to taste, but as expected, very quaffable with pasta. It was dry and medium bodied with a distinct tannic strawberry after-blast. Quite acidic. When I first opened it there was a bit of an odd background taste on the tongue that I couldn’t put my finger on – a sort of dry fruit tang. After quite a bit of air that eased off and it was much more balanced and the harsh edges were gone.

    Overall the wine was what I expected. It’s nothing special, but a pleasant, bold, fruity easy drinker (if you don’t mind strong easy drinking…). The perfect pizza wine!

    1. Hi Will,

      I totally forgot we were drinking Nero D’Avola when we spoke about 52grapes. So pleased you have joined us on the experience. I feel like I’m learning a lot too. It feels like it is allowing me the chance to re-assess grapes and find out what other people like too.

      I think that “dry fruit tang” is the mediterranean heat of Sicily meaning potentially some of the grapes had got a little raisined. I get that quite a lot in warm climate reds.

      Here’s to many more grapes!

  6. I am really enjoying tasting all these different grapes, as normally I would stick to the wines I know. This has been an education into some very interesting wines. However Nero d Avola was not to my liking. I found it was slightly smokey and unpleasant to the nose, and had a bitter after taste. So won’t be buying this one in future

  7. I bought two bottles this week from Majestic wines – one was described by the friendly guy in there as a good weekday Nero D’Avola ‘Corolla 2016’ and the other was described as ‘having a bit more punch’ given its made with dried grapes – ‘Nero Oro Apassimento 2016’.

    I opted for the Corolla. It’s made by a cooperative founded in 1969. Its very easy drinking, lots of black frits coming through, blackcurrant and blackberries. well balanced and smooth.

    I was planning to open the second one but as i was out for dinner last night at Hai Cenato – New York style Italian restaurant i scanned the wine list for wines from Sicily and found Mandrasrossa Nero D’Avola 2016. This was full bodied, again very easy to drink and lots of black cherry, plum and blackberries coming through.

    Our waitress for the evening just happened to be from Sicily so we were then gaining lots of recommendations from here (not all Nero D’Avola). The Nero D’Avola was going down very well with our steak with salsa verde but we took one of her recommendations and were introduced to a another new grape type for me ‘Nerello Mascalese’ – would recommend it, the smokiness of Mount Etna coming though but clearly i cant comment on this grape until we get to the allocated week!

    1. Impressed to hear you’ve tried more than one Nero D’Avola. I’ve never tried it in the appassimento style so it will be interesting to hear how that tastes. You might want to try it against an Amarone (also made in the appassimento way) which is going to be our wine in two weeks when do Corvina grape (see our grape schedule for more)…

      And your waitress sounds like she knows her stuff. Nerello Mascalese will be on our list later but it is the hidden gem when it comes to red grapes from Sicily and is really worth seeking out.

  8. Here’s my first tasting note for this very worthwhile project. Poggio Anima Terre Siciliane Nero d’avila 2015 $24. I wanted a bottle of Cos but none left at my favourite wine merchant. A cheap wine if you take into consideration Australia’s huge wine tax. Slightly smoky, gunpowder nose, purple colour, rather neutral light bodied palate, not much tannin but good acidity and a slightly bitter finish. Certainly savoury and food friendly (as one would expect in Italy) but I don’t think it fully shows varietal character at this price point. I’ll try to do better next week!

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