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Carl Hudson
July 5, 2017 | Wine Varietals | Carl Hudson

Nero d’Avola – A Sicilian Connection

Nero d’Avola (also known as Calabrese) is an important and widely planted red wine grape variety on the island of Sicily.  The name literally means “Black of Avola”, highlighting the grape’s extremely dark color.  Although the grape may have originated in the Calabria region of mainland Italy, its strongest presence today is in Sicily.  The primary growing areas are located in the countryside near the town of Avola on Sicily’s southeast coast – a key trade region in the Middle Ages.  Since that time, and up to the present day, Nero d’Avola has most often been used in blends to add color and body to lesser wines, especially those from mainland Italy.  

Once relegated to blends with no mention on the label, Nero d’Avola has experienced a surge in popularity over the past two decades.  The varietal name often appears on wine labels and its popularity may be somewhat related to the name “Nero” being easy to say and remember.  Nero is often compared to Syrah because they have similar flavor characteristics and prefer similar growing conditions – a hot, arid Mediterranean climate, poor soils and lots of sun.  Nero d’Avola typically produces dark, dense wines that are aged in oak barrels to soften the tannins.  Younger wines usually show medium acidity, good depth, juicy red and purple plum flavors with a peppery edge.  Older wines develop aromas and flavors of chocolate, coffee, smoke and black raspberry fruit. 

Because of success in hot, arid growing regions, Nero d’Avola has been planted in places like Australia, Turkey, California, and now, Texas.  Texas grape growers continue to look for varietals to plant in the typically hot, arid, sunny conditions found in most grape-growing areas of the state.  For that reason, expect the popularity of Nero d’Avola to continue to increase in Texas, for growers, wine makers and consumers.  Certainly Nero d’Avola has the opportunity to join Tempranillo, Mourvèdre and several other hot-climate grape varieties as key components of the Texas wine industry. 

4.0 Cellars currently features the 2015 Brennan Vineyards Super Nero (Nero d’Avola).  This is a bold red (almost black) wine with intense flavors that remind some of Amarone del Valpolicella wines of the Veneto region in Italy.  Amarone wines are produced from grapes that are dried to reduce water content prior to fermentation, thus reaching sugar levels of 30% or more.  The Brennan Nero d’Avola grapes were not dried, but did reach a very high level of ripeness and sugar content before harvest.  As the fermentation progressed, the yeasts began to slow down and eventually stop conversion of grape sugar to alcohol, leaving a high alcohol content and just less than one percent residual sugar in the finished wine.  Thus, the wine finishes with a perceptible sweetness.  This 2015 Brennan Vineyards Super Nero pairs well with many highly-flavored foods, including spicy Texas barbecue, steak au poivre, and peppery Mexican, Thai or Chinese beef dishes.  Visit the 4.0 Cellars tasting room on US-290 east of Fredericksburg, and check out Super Nero for yourself.  


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