Italian Indigenous Varities: Nero d’avola or Calabrese

Ah, la Sicilia. I haven’t been back in about eight years, way too long. What I have been able to do however, is drink lots of Sicilian wine. That is because Calabrese better known as Nero d’avola, or this week’s Italian indigenous variety is now being poured all over the world. The grape is often made into a mono-varietal wine and at other times is blended with other indigenous varieties or with international ones.

It can be used in numerous DOC wines including Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Contea di Sclafani, Eloro, Marsala, Menfi, Sambuca di Sicilia, Contessa Entellina, etc.

The first time I had a wine made with Nero d’Avola I remember being surprised at both its alcohol level as well as its acidity. It’s generally a big full bodied wine with firm tannins and serious aging potential. I’ve had Nero d’avola that has been aged in wood, aged in stainless steel or not aged at all.

The first time I tried this wine was in 2000. I was at the start of my Associazione Italiana Sommelier wine studies and I found the Donnafugata winery. It was truly a revelation for me. I discovered Angheli, Tancredi, and Mille e Una Notte, wines made of blend of Nero d’avola and international varieties that soon became some of my favorite wines. I must confess that I also love their passito, Ben Rye.

I have since tried many other wines made with Nero d’avola but those three hold a special place in my heart. Perhaps it’s the link to Il Gattopardo, a book and a movie that I love, but something about Donnafugata stays with you.

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