Exploring Everyday Nero d’Avola

Well, I have been focusing on southern Italian reds like I promised. Dreams of traveling to Puglia, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, and Sicilia … dance in my head, but so do dreams of touring Yellowstone National Park, hiking through the colorful canyons of Utah, exploring Machu Picchu of Peru, and doing some serious wine tasting in Chile. However, if I skip an October in Piemonte I will never hear the end of it. But that, of course, makes me happy too. Such is life.

I will get to those other places, though. And not before too long.

In the meantime, in my funky little central coast beach town of California, where finding southern Italian reds on a daily basis is an issue, well, I am finding them. It’s just that around here, you find mostly budget ones. While it’s great to find wines in the $8-13 range, they’re not always worth the money—ironically. It’s a mixed bag from the south of Italy (in this I am including Sicilia) and I worry a little about what they are sending to the US or what importers are choosing to import. But all in due time. I have faith that this could be a burgeoning category for the casual to professional eonophile—as long as we don’t end up with too much schwag over here.

I recently picked up a bottle of $14 Poggionotte Nero d’Avola and I have to say, was not impressed. The only thing that impressed me, even a little, was that it was more drinkable on the third day open than on the first day. On the first day, I couldn’t drink more than a few sips so I left it in case “a miracle occurred.” On the second day, the smell of sheep derriere went away but it still was not awesome—at least not as awesome as a $14 wine from Sicilia should be.

Poggionotte Nero d'avola IGT Sicilia

Poggionotte Nero d’Avola 2011. Sicilia IGT. Nero d’Avola 100%. From the first day, I had nothing more to report than smells from a zoo. My first set of notes came from the second day that the bottle was open: black licorice and blackberry syrup come forth but there is still a hint of something pungent in the background. On the palate it is bitter, thin, and spicy. By the 3rd day it was actually almost good: rose and red licorice nose. On the palate, it’s okay; nothing much going on but the finish is pleasing with spices and fresh red fruit. On the 4th day open, it was more drinkable than on the first day open but I didn’t finish it. I would not recommend this wine to anyone.

I also just picked up a $10 Cusumano Nero d’Avola. I didn’t have high hopes after cracking tha Poggionotte but actually, this one impressed me.

Cusumano Nero d'Avola

Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2012. Sicilia IGT (San Giacomo, Butera (CL)). Nero d’Avola 100%. Two days cold maceration on skins (destemmed); ML in stainless steel with lees contact for 5 months. On the nose there is black licorice, blackberry, cassis, ash, violets, and every so often a little waft of cinnamon Red Hots. The palate is a little thin but the finish is spicy and fruity. This wine offers no resistance; it’s easy drinking and pleasant. For $10, I give this wine one ★.

Tomorrow I’m to attend a Sagrantino tasting in San Francisco and I’m really looking forward to it. Sagrantino is from Umbria, which is in central Italy. But for now I give myself credit for exploring this region a little more, especially since Umbria is south of both Piemonte and Toscana. I’m sure there will be some knockouts there; I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

6 thoughts on “Exploring Everyday Nero d’Avola

  1. Ok, here goes (and yes, I am critical, and yes, it’s hard to really get to know a wine at a walk-around tasting, but here were my impressions…)

    Antonelli San Marco Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2006 and 2008 – had really bitter tannins (maybe need lots of time???)
    Antonelli San Marco Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG Riserva 2007 – very floral but still bitter.
    I liked these guys at a Tre Bicchieri tasting a while back so would give them another shot in a different setting.

    Arnaldo Caprai 25 Anni Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG (2008) – roses, violets, scorched earth, ash, juicy blackberry, dark on the palate, nutty & ashy tannins, a touch of worn leather. ★★☆ MY FAVORITE!
    For a less expensive commitment, try their Montefalco Rosso Riserva – clean; plum, smoke, spice.

    Tenuta Castelbuono Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 – perfume, red fruit, bold fruit on the palate, earthy tannins. ★☆

    Le Climate Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG (sorry, again didn’t write vintage) – plum, cherry, blackberry, limestone. ★★
    NOTE- All wines from Le Climate (including the Trebbiano and Montefalco Rosso) were excellent but they are not yet represented in California.

    Perticaia Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2006 – plum, vanilla, fruity on palate with nutty tannins, lip-coating. ★

    Romanelli – I either didn’t try or didn’t like.

    Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2007 – surprisingly mellow, aged all in new French oak but after 2008, moving to large barrels and after 2012, also larger Austrian barrels.
    NOTE- I’ve had great experiences with their wines in the past but this one did not stand out.

    Tenuta Bellafonte Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG 2008 – big, red fruit, spicy, tannic. Nothing particularly special.

    Those are all of the producers who were at the tasting and all of my notes. Helpful at all?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Marcella. Thank you very much for taking time to do this! Your descriptions, especially of the Caprai, give me confidence that my writing about the two Sagrantinos I’ve tasted is not too far off. I hope I cross paths with more. 🙂

    2. Hi Marcella. Thank you very much for taking time to do this! Your descriptions, especially of the Caprai, give me confidence that my writing about the two Sagrantinos I’ve tasted is not too far off. I hope to cross paths with more! 🙂

  2. Hi Marcella. Would you have time and interest enough to post your notes and thoughts from the Sagrantino tasting? I believe I’ve tasted only one Sagrantino, but I found it very tasty and interesting. I now have a later vintage from the same producer and would be interested to hear about the qualities and variations in the wines you tasted. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comment and interest! I am traveling at the moment but when I get home, I will consult my notes for you and tell you what I came up with. I hadn’t followed up re: that tasting because I wasn’t impressed overall with the wines, surprisingly. There were a couple of good ones … I love the grape but I think I just sort of struck out there. I will follow up early next week with a list—promise!

      1. I’m sorry to hear the tasting was disappointing, although I will still be interested to read your impressions of both the good and the bad. I eagerly opened my bottle of Ottomonti 2009 Sagrantino last night, and my high praise for it is here. But I have less experience with Italian wines and maybe it doesn’t compare very well to the wines you usually taste, so I’ll happily wait to see if your descriptions sound anything like it. Thank you and happy travels!

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