Nero D’avola: The Most Important Red Wine Grape in Sicily

this once humble grape now receiving praise from all over the world

You may know Nero D’avola as the grape for wine snobs on a budget. You may remember it as a grape included in pleasant but boring blends if you drank a lot of wine before the turn of the century, or you might never have heard of Nero D’avola.

You’re missing out if you fall into either of the last two categories and may be curious how Nero D’avola became so special if you’ve already discovered the grape’s magical properties. Join us on the grape’s fascinating journey either way — because this once humble grape now receiving praise from all over the world has an interesting backstory.

Why Are You Hearing About Nero D’avola Wherever You Look?

More than 12,000 hectares of Sicily’s vineyard space is exclusively dedicated to growing Nero D’avola grapes today, making it the most widely-grown and economically most important red grape in Sicily.

More and more true wine lovers — and even people with no more than a passing interest in red wines — are becoming obsessed with Nero D’avola, but this grape didn’t always have such a stellar reputation.

Nero D’avola was named for the town of Avola at the Southern tip of Sicily, and while a lot of questions remain about its precise origins, Nero D’avola is widely believed to be native to the island. Some “merely” trace its origins back to the Middle Ages, while others speculate that Greek colonizers first cultivated Nero D’avola thousands of years ago.

Whichever story you believe, one thing is clear — Nero D’avola predates the 1960s push to produce large quantities of affordable wines. In fact, the rise of the communes signified Nero D’avola’s dark period. The government encouraged local wine growers to cultivate high-yield foreign grapes and adopt novel growing techniques that flooded the global wine market with inexpensive but flavorless wines, and Sicily’s unique character was nearly lost.

Nero D’avola survived this period — the grape was often blended with dull varieties — but not with its reputation intact.

The Sicilian revival movement picked up steam after the wine crash of the 1980s, when wine producers began to look at Sicily’s most important grape in a new light. Franco Giacosa made impressive strides with a bold Nero D’avola wine in 1984, and increasing numbers of wine producers soon rushed to experiment with new wine-making methods that increased the grape’s acidity while slashing their high sugar content.

The result?

Well, Nero D’avola — the black of Avola — has taken its rightful place as one of the world’s most impressive red wine-producing grapes. You’ll find Nero D’avola in exciting varietals and beautiful blends. The fact that Nero D’avola is so widespread contributes to the variety of beautiful Sicilian wines on the market today because Nero D’avola is a grape shaped by the soil it grows in. From fertile young volcanic soils to complex calcareous soils, Sicily offers an amazing variety that shines through in Nero D’avola wines.

In short, you’re hearing about Nero D’avola whenever you look for beautiful, full-bodied red wines because its distinct character represents the very best of Sicily.

Wines to Try if You Want to Fall in Love with Nero D'avola

Nero D’avola is a dark red grape with a complex flavor profile. Depending on the region it’s grown in and the wine-making techniques used, you can expect a full-bodied red with hints of dried fruit, licorice, tobacco, cocoa, and cinnamon. These wines are beautifully spicy, high in tannins and acidity, and, of course, high in alcohol content. Nero D’avola wines are as full-bodied as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

It is not difficult to find varietals, and this grape certainly deserves to take center stage. Nero D’avola also shines in blends, however. You’ll find Nero D’avola in Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG, Dorilli 2015 Cerasuolo Di Vittoria Classico DOCG, Mamertino DOC, Eloro DOC, and Riesi DOC wines.

The best thing? If you’ve tried one Nero D’avola wine, you’ve tried one. Try a different wine from a different region, and the grape will always surprise you with new flavors.

Nero D’avola: Sicily’s Black Gem

The mass production of cheap wines once nearly killed Sicily’s wine industry. Nero D’avola, the island’s more widespread red grape, almost single-handedly brought it back from the edge.

Nero D’avola can be called Sicily’s most important grape because it has played a crucial role in reviving an authentically Sicilian wine industry the whole island can be proud of. More than that, though, Nero D’avola has brought international wine lovers together in their love of excellent red wine.

Once almost forgotten, Nero D’avola has now become so sought-after that it’s being cultivated all over the world. While Nero D’avola wines from Austria, Australia, California, and South Africa are amazing in their own right, wine lovers would miss out if they forgot where the grape came from.

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