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Sicilian nose


The black grape of Italy is no longer the black sheep.

Greg Horton February 8th, 2012

Think of a delicious Cru Beuajolais: bright-red fruit upfront, great balance and that smoky tar finish that takes a light wine and makes it serious.

Maybe you like Syrah, and not the overly jammy Australian variety, but a subtle, yet powerful Rhone style. The red fruit, earth and smoke give the wine a brooding quality.

When wine lovers are asked to describe their first encounter with Nero d’Avola, the main varietal grown in Sicily, those are the two most common comparisons.

Nero d’Avola means “Avola black” or “black of Avola.” Although wellknown for making unremarkable wine for centuries, it’s been well-respected as a blending grape.

Modern winemaking techniques have moved Nero d’Avola into a serious, medium-bodied wine that still stands up well to food.

right, Nero d’Avola at Coffee Creek Wine Shop

Matt Sterr, managing partner of Spirit Shop, 1117 Garver in Norman, said he’s seen a threefold increase in Nero d’Avola available in Oklahoma from a few years ago.

“These are good wines, very approachable,” Sterr said. “Most of the vineyards in Sicily are composed of volcanic soil, so you get a richer, smokier wine, but one that still comes in as solidly medium-bodied.”

He said the best of the selection is the Mazzei Zisola from the famous Tuscan-based Mazzei House, a winery with properties in Sicily and Tuscany. The Zisola is also the most expensive Nero d’Avola in the state, but still comes in at under $30. Nearly all the others are under $20, making it one of the metro’s best values.

Zisola is the closest to a full-bodied Nero d’Avola in the state, featuring licorice, black fruit and smoke and pairs well with grilled meats.

Ajello Nero d’Avola is far more typical of the varietal. Case Ibidini Nero d’Avola is a little lighter-bodied than usual, but remarkably accessible. Both are relatively new to Oklahoma and also available at Spirit Shop.

Two other good examples are Dievole Pinocchio and Feudo Arancio. The Pinocchio is similar to Case Ibidini with a lighter body than typical. The Arancio is an interesting example in that it features strawberry, raspberry and black tea.

Nero d’Avola wines are also available in Edmond at Wine Shop at 1520 S. Boulevard and Coffee Creek Wine Shop, 775 W. Covell, or Beau’s Wine Bin, 2810 W. Country Club Drive.

Photo by Shannon Cornman

 
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