Nero d'Avola Grape
Sicily’s Most Popular: Nero D’Avola
As Sicily’s most popular red grape varietal, Nero d’Avola is used in some of the region’s best selling wine blends. Generally considered one of the 18 world-class red wine grapes, Nero d’Avola only emerged onto the world stage about three decades ago, although the vine is many centuries old. As Sicily’s most popular red grape varietal, Nero d’Avola is used in some of the region’s best selling wine blends. Generally considered one of the 18 world-class red wine grapes, Nero d’Avola only emerged onto the world stage about three decades ago, although the vine is many centuries old.
Commercial use of Nero d’Avola was primarily dedicated to fortifying weaker reds in France and northern Italy until the 1980s. In the past, like many other Sicilian red varieties, Nero d’Avola was often syrupy and containing a high alcohol content frequently reaching 18% which is considered too strong for table wines.
Sicily’s stony soil proves great for Nero d’Avola vineyards as the rocks absorb heat during the day and release it at night, helping the vines maintain a consistent temperature. The island’s heat also allows the grapes to quickly ripen, resulting in sweeter, syrup-ier wines.
Soils also vary depending on location to sea level.
Nero d'Avola Vineyard
Located along the coast, where the earth has a sandy-clay structure and yellow colored soils. The soil is relatively light and provides wines with freshness and complex scents.
Calcareous soil roughly 250 meters above sea level that is somewhat poor and has extends deep. The grapevines often suffer a little here and sometimes fail to grow vigorously, but allows for a stronger fruit concentration.
Black Soil with White Pebbles
Located roughly 100 meters above sea level. The soil is black, relatively compact and riddled with white stones. This soil structure makes it possible for plant roots to oxygenate freely, extending down deep into the ground.
This soil structure is divided between clear red sand and dark, medium density soil with good depth. The grapevines planted in dark red soil produce are ideal for Nero d’Avola and the vines planted in clear red soil are best for Frappato.
Nero d'Avola Grape
Nero d’Avola, listed by its official name “Calabrese” in Italy’s National Registry of Grape Varieties, accounts for approximately 16,500 hectares of vineyards. The only area Nero d’Avola isn’t common is the island’s northeastern corner. Most often with Frappato to make the excellent Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Nero d’Avola responds to different site terroirs with variations in color, richness, structure and weight making it ever-unique to blend with.
The flavor qualities of Nero d’Avola are distinctive, but there is a range of flavors in the wines. Nero d’Avola tend to have a soft roundness, moderate alcohol levels, and are not as acidic as some other Italian reds. The warm climate promises fruity, full, higher alcohol wines due to prolonged ripeness allowing for more sugar to be converted to alcohol in fermentation.
“There is always a touch of earth in these wines which you don’t usually find in the New World gems”
Primary - Grape Influences
From medium and fruity to rich and spicy – this hot-weather loving grape never disappoints. There is a classic dark cherry element to these berries, but also pleasing tones of earthiness and moderate smokiness. These tones are often explained by the influence of volcanic soil that pervades Sicily.From medium and fruity to rich and spicy – this hot-weather loving grape never disappoints. There is a classic dark cherry element to these berries, but also pleasing tones of earthiness and moderate smokiness. These tones are often explained by the influence of volcanic soil that pervades Sicily.
Nero d’Avola originated in Sicily, specifically in the town of Avola. Although Sicily is a somewhat small island, there are many microclimates that influence each variety grown. The better wines, like Nero d’Avola, reflect those different terroirs, making the wines irreplaceable.
The name Nero d’Avola, literally translates to “Avola Black,” in reference to the deeply pigmented berries. Similar to Frappato, Nero d’Avola’s common blending partner for Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Nero d’Avola has benefitted from implementation of modern viticulture techniques in Sicily.
Secondary - Fermentation & Aging Influences
By placing harvested grapes in cooled vats to present premature fermentation, some vintners are able to retain flavor without producing an overpowering wine. Another viticulture technique implemented is night harvesting. The resulting wines are often compared to Syrah.
If you try several different Sicilian Nero d’Avola winemakers, you’ll notice that there are 2 winemaking techniques often used. One is a more fruit-forward, opulent, and black-fruit driven style that offers up coffee and chocolate flavors from aging in oak barrels. The other, is much leaner and more elegant with zippy red cherry fruit flavors, herbal notes, and very little oak aging (if any at all).
Nero d’Avola wines almost all drink quite well when young, but the best will prevail with cellaring.
The most famous wine from grapes of Nero d’Avola, is the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, which should not be confused with the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo; Abruzzo being the name of the local rosé. “Cerasuolo” in this case means “cherry,” in reference to the cherry aromas found in wine. Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG is produced in the province of Ragusa from Frappato and Calabrese (Nero d’Avola). By law it is made with 50-70% Nero d’Avola and 30-50% Frappato. In Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Frappato provides cherry fragrance and an acid lift to blend, Nero D’Avola adds flesh and structure.
“This grape makes a rich, perfumed and velvety red wine that’s easy to drink but that can take a bit of aging, works well in blends with other grapes, and can benefit from (but does not require) the judicious use of oak. That’s a lot to like in a wine grape, and it’s a description that could just as easily fit many of the most desirable red varieties.”
- 2015: Tangy and fragrant, this gives off aromas of red berry, white rose and a whiff of carob. The vibrant palate doles out juicy red cherry, red raspberry, mineral and a hint of baking spice alongside crisp acidity. It finishes crisp and clean.
- 2014: Offers enticing scents of violet, red berry, and Mediterranean brush. The bright, juicy palate doles out ripe black cherry, crushed raspberry, chopped herb and a note of ground pepper alongside fresh acidity and round, polished tannins. Drink through 2019.
- 2013: Aromas of cedar, allspice, and black-skinned fruit take shape in the glass. On the easygoing palate, notes of ground pepper and star anise add some depth to the juicy blackberry core, while chewy tannins give it texture.
- 2012: Pretty fragrance of blue flower, blackberry, and baking spice. The simple palate is less expressive, offering fleeting wild cherry flavors.
- 2011: This dark ruby-colored wine has aromas of menthol, black cherry, and lavender. Flavors of blackberry, Dr. Pepper, ground clove, and mace form a united front on the palate among heavy, mouth-coating tannins. The lasting finish wraps up with a surprisingly zesty note of fresh ginger.
- 2010: Easy red wine that would pair with fettuccine and meat sauce or pork roast. The quality of the fruit is clean, bright, and sharp
- 2009: Easy-going red that would pair with grilled meat or breaded veal. The wine is lean and crisp with light berry tones and a touch of charred toast on the close.
- 2008: Opens with ripe aromas of black cherry and dried raspberry. The mouthfeel is soft, simple, and chewy.
- 2007: Aromas include ripe cherry, blackberry, and spice. The wine is smooth on the close with a crisp touch of cleansing acidity at the end.
Nero d'Avola Grape