Lucio Caputo of the Italian Wine and Food Institute held the 24th annual edition of Gala Italia last week. The morning seminar showcased 26 producers. The tasting was divided into three sections, From Sicily With Love: Nero D’Avola, Chianti, SuperTuscan or Brunello, and My Best Wine From 2000 to Today. With so many wines to try even before getting to the grand tasting with over 60 producers, I tried to focus mainly on the different expressions of Nero D’Avola, a Sicilian grape that I have been fond of for a long time. Some were made in a more modern style such as that from Cantina Viticultori Associati from Canicatti,the Aynat Nero D’Avola IGT Sicilia 2006. This deep, ruby colored wine was intense and persistent with a cherry, pepper and spice bouquet. It was full bodied with fine tanins and notes of tobacco, spice, and black fruit on the palate. It had a long and elegant finish. The wine was aged in small new oak barriques. We also had a Nero D’Avola IGT from Cantina Corbera called Nero D’Avola IGT Sicilia Le Contrade 2006 from the Contessa Entellina area. This wine was a deep, ruby red in color with an intense and persistent nose of pepper, geranium and black fruit. It was full bodied with black fruit notes and lovely tertiary aromas of tobacco, chocolate, and leather. The tannins were particularly ripe and pronounced. The two styles were very different but both interesting expressions of Nero D’Avola from two Cantine Sociali or cooperatives. As each speaker suggested, Nero D’Avola has many clones and grows differently in each region of Sicily.
Unfortunately, not all of the wines were in top shape when they reached my glass. A few of the bottles were corked and not checked by the wait staff. With 26 wines for 110 settings I can see how something might have slipped but I was sorry to not be able to taste all of the wines.
I also truly enjoyed the wine by Feudo Principi di Butera. The Deliella Nero D’Avola IGT Sicilia 2005 was exquisite. Its opaque, ruby color and racy bouquet was followed by well balanced floral notes, black and red fruit, pepper, liquorice, tobacco and animal skin on the palate. The wine was aged partly in barriques and partly in larger barrels. It’s been many years since I tried this wine and I found it very well integrated and pretty.
A further Nero D’Avola that I thoroughly enjoyed was made by Tasca D’Almerita, again, a producer whose wines I haven’t tried in many moons. The Rosso del Conte Nero D’Avola Conte di Sclafani DOC 2004 was just divine. Deep, ruby red with intense and persistent red and black fruit, oak, spice, sage and pepper on the nose. It was velvety and full bodied on the palate with the same aromas and flavors that showed on the nose. This wine was simply exquisite. Originally created in the 1960s by Count Giuseppe Tasca, it come from 40 year old vines. Tasca D’Almerita has been making wine since the 1830s.
The current head of the winery, Count Lucio Tasca, didn’t even speak about his wine but let it speak for itself. Instead he pointed out that Sicily has 96% of the world’s soils and therefore Nero D’Avola grown in one area will be totally different than that grown even 20 centimeters away or the span of a human hand.
A trip to Sicily to try these wines and other gems seems in the cards.