Nero d’Avola

NERO D'AVOLA​ grape in a nutshell
  • Nero d’ Avola is the most widely grown red variety in Sicily.
  • Highly resistant to warm growing conditions, it owes its success to high vigor and the ability to retain excellent acidity.
  • It is also known as "Calabrese".
NERO D'AVOLA​ wine in a sip
  • Nero d'Avola wines have intense black and red fruit flavors with hints of jam, chocolate, spice and dried herbs, followed by a fruit-forward palate with smooth tannins, firm acidity, and a medium to structure.
  • The wine's characteristics vary based on the environment, with limestone soils yielding higher-acid versions, and clay soils resulting in richer flavors.
  • Traditional food pairings depend on the style of Nero d’Avola you go for.

What is Nero d'Avola?

Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most important black grape, accounting for over 15% of the regional surface under vine and producing huge quantities of wine annually.

Also known as Calabrese, it takes its name from Avola, a town on the southeast coast of the island.  This spot has been a center for the wine trade for centuries with the Nero d’Avola cultivar historically used to add body and color to lighter wines on the mainland.

The traditional use of this variety as a blending grape changed at the turn of this century as Nero d’Avola increasingly appeared as a fine varietal wine.

Nero d’ Avola owes its success to its vigor and its ability to withstand hot and dry growing conditions.

What are the origins of Nero d’Avola?

Nero d’Avola is likely to have been introduced by the Greeks when they colonized Sicily around the 6th century B.C. Scientists weren’t able to identify its progenitors, but found genetic links to other native Sicilian varieties such as Catarratto and Inzolia.

Calabrese is the name that appears in texts from the 18th century. The term may trick you into thinking that the variety originated in Calabria, but actually derives from “calea” (grape in the ancient Sicilian dialect) and ” aulisi” (from Avola).

Where is Nero d’Avola grown?

This variety is susceptible to fungal disease so prefers hot, sunny climates.

Southeastern Sicily, where the town of Avola lies, is its historical cradle but it is currently widely grown throughout the entire region.

Beyond Sicily, there are small amounts cultivated in the Calabria region, and in other temperate countries like Australia and California.

What does Nero d'Avola taste like?

What Does Nero d’Avola Taste Like?

Nero d’Avola displays intense – and sometimes slightly jammy – black and red fruit aromas and flavors intertwined with chocolate and spice as well as dried herbs and savory tones. The wines display high but smooth, well-integrated tannins, firm acidity, and a medium to full body. Oak-aged examples are usually bolder and riper, while entry-level, unoaked expressions are simpler and more easy-drinking.

This varietal is very sensitive to its environment resulting in distinctive terroir-expressive wines. When cultivated in limestone soils, red fruit and higher acidity dominates while clay soils lead to Nero d’Avola with richer flavours, smooth tannins, and measured acidity.

Does Nero d’Avola age well?

While simple and affordable versions of Nero d’Avola – which make the lion’s share of the production – are best consumed young to fully enjoy their immediately-pleasing fruitiness, oak-aged versions are more cellar-worthy, developing intense nuances of tobacco, earth and exotic spice.

What kind of wine is similar to Nero d’Avola?

A bolder and oakier style of Nero d’ Avola may remind of a New World Syrah or an ultra-smooth and fruit-forward Merlot. Lighter styles, instead, come closer to Gamay – if laced with riper fruit – or medium-bodied Grenache from southern France.

What food does Nero d'Avola pair with?

Sicily is sunny and warm all year long, and locals often serve mid-weight styles of Nero d’Avola slightly chilled alongside hearty pasta dishes such as rigatoni alla norma (with tomato sauce, salted ricotta and eggplants) or busiate alla trapanese (with tomato sauce, crumbled almonds, and red garlic).

Oily fishes such as grilled tuna or swordfish with capers and tomato sauce are the other typical matches.

Richer styles of Nero d’Avola are perfect with pork tenderloin bbq ribs, and their smoothness and velvetiness also helps with slightly spicy meat courses.


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