Nero d’Avola (Neh-Ro Dah-vo-la) is the dark spicy sultry don of Sicily. Originally from Avola (Nero d’Avola meaning “black of Avola”) in the south of the island it is now Sicily’s most widely planted red wine grape variety. It thrives in the very hot very arid roasted volcanic slopes of the Island – retaining amazing acidity given its growing conditions. N.D.V also has an absolutely astounding ability to shut down its stomata (micro-pores in the leaves that allow for exchange of liquids and gasses) above 42 degrees C and go into a kind of stasis – minimising water loss during extreme drought.
In style it can vary from medium to fuller bodied depending on the soil it is grown in and wine making choices. Sandier soils and little to no oak tends to result in a super fresh acidity with dark cherry flavours. Heavier clay soils and oak aging brings out much richer dark fruits and chocolate or coffee notes. Both styles tend to have an exotic spiciness and pleasant savoury herbal character.
Nero d’Avola in Australia
Nero d’Avola was first brought to Australia by the Chalmers family in the late 90’s and was cleared for released from quarantine for planting in 2001. Now there are over 50 vineyards growing the variety. The greatest success has been achieved in the sun-baked super arid regions that most closely resemble N.D.V’s ancestral home. McClaren Vale and the Riverland spring to mind. Due to its natural acidity and slightly lighter body it also offers a nice counter point to the traditional powerhouses of these regions – namely big plush Shiraz and Grenache.
3 Favourites to Try
- Brash Higgins – Brad Hickey of Brash Higgins makes what many consider to be standard bearer for Australian Nero d’Avola. An ex big dog New York sommelier with a background in Botany he chose McClaren Vale as the site for his inevitable leap into winemaking. Growing his own fruit he crafts sumptuous wine with dense tightly wound but bright fruit and exceptionally complex savoury herbal and dried citrus orange peel notes.
- Unico Zelo – Brendan and Laura Carter are obsessed with sustainability and growing grapes more appropriate for the South Australian Climate. Nero d’Avola was an obvious choice for them.. Sourcing fruit from the Riverland their The River wine is a more juicy entry level number than Brash Higgins but doesn’t sacrifice any savoury complexity. This is the kind of wine that would please wine w**kers and novices alike.
- Coriole – a long standing flag waver for alternative Italian varieties Coriole’s Nero d’Avola stands out in most vintages (the 2016 vintage won the best wine of the show at the Australian Alternative Variety Show 2016). The wines tend to have great smoothness, dark luscious fruit and lovely herbal earthiness to them.
Nero D’Avola is a supremely versatile wine that due to its myriad of flavour elements and medium structure with good acid can handle a wide range dishes. Classic matches are as varied as Salad Niçoise or other grilled fish to heavy meaty winter braises. Its robust fruit flavour and earthy, herbal quality means it can handle barbecued meats and strong game flavour with ease and these can bring out the luscious fruit in the wine even more. The exotic spice and high acid means it stands up to Indian curries and middle eastern spiced smoky meats like few other reds can.
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