The Black Grape of Avola

Origin: Italy, Sicilia
The official name for the grape is Calabrese, but it is better known under the name Nero d’Avola that derives from a city on Sicilia

Grown: Almost exclusively in Sicilia, but some plantings in the new world

Climate: Mediterranean, the hotter and dryer, the better

Soil: Terra rossa, (clay soil with good drainage)

Viticulture: Low training system

Vinification: Can benefit greatly from barrel aging

Regional names to look for on label:

  • Eloro DOC
  • Riesi DOC
  • Menfi DOC
  • Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG

General Personality:

  • Colour: Ruby red
  • Aromas: Blackberries, black plum, liquorice, tobacco
  • Taste and Texture: Robust, rustic tannins, medium balanced acidity, full body
  • Conclusion: It has a fruit driven aroma, is rich and rustic and hard to dislike. Full bodied like a Cabernet, but at the same time offers something unique. Barrel aging can add a lot of chocolate and coffee. Sometime the charm of Nero d’Avola can be lost in the barrel, while other times the addition of the spices, can be the perfect complement to the rich fruit of the wine
  • Future: Some examples are made for aging, with a good tannin structure, they can handle a couple of years, but be careful of the acidity though, some wines might become a bit flat with time

Food pairings:

  • General: Nero d’Avola is not the wine to serve at a fancy party. It is not a wine that claims to be something that it is not. It is straightforward, rustic and honest, which is also why it is so likeable. It is a wine for a stew, or why not a barbecue. Something that will warm your soul while it warms you stomach. Rabbit would be a traditional meat pairing, but any home barbeque would do equably as well
  • Obvious pairing: Vegetable stew
    Sometimes a vegan recipe will just not cover it. I started with the idea of an Irish vegetable stew, with that rich, complex broth. But many vegan recipes are unfortunately a bit behind on making their preparations wine friendly. So, to make it into a true match, two components were added:
    – A meat substitute. Beans and tofu in all their glory, but sometimes you need something a bit more substantial. Something to chew. For this one, some pieces of Quarn (processed mushroom protein) well marinated did the trick
    – Prunes or prune jam. This is the key to making many recipes a bit more wine friendly and to give it the right balance. I often replace sugar with some pureed prunes. To give the dish both flavour and a hint of sweetness. Perfect flavour match with Nero d’Avola
  • On the wild side: Meaty “Meatfree” burger with Nero d’Avola Onion Jam
    Okay, for this one we are combining three different components.
    1st This Cabernet Sauvignon onion Jam (replace the Cab Sav with Nero d’Avola of course) 2nd A good old-fashioned barbeque
    3rd A Beyond Burger (or something similar but without the trademark)
    Combine with your favourite bread, some green lettuce and maybe some sliced cheese alternative, and enjoy. Simple, but oh so delicious!