Nero d’Avola is the most prominent grape of Sicily. Named after the shipping town of Avola on the Southeast coast of the island, the name of the fruit means the “black of Avola,” which was given because of the wine’s deep, dark color. It was often blended with other lighter wines to add color and depth. Nero d’Avola is a grape that “crushes red,” meaning its skin and interior are a deep, dark purple or blue color.
Until the 1980s, Nero d’Avola was used as a blending grape, and the name rarely appeared on wine labels. By the turn of the 21st century, the grape’s fortunes had changed, and it is now common to find Nero d’Avola produced as a varietal wine as well. It is often compared to Syrah because the varietal likes similar growing conditions – hot, humid and coastal – and exhibits many similar characteristics.
Previously, there was no way to control the higher alcohol content and overpowering fruit flavor of the grape. Newer methods of harvesting and fermentation allow vinters to harness the wine’s character, and have more control over the alcohol content without compromising the grape’s intense flavor.
Depending on production methods, Nero d’Avola can be made into dense and dark wine that is stored in oak barrels and suitable for aging, or young and fresh wines.
Younger wines show plum and juicy, red-fruit flavors, while more complex examples offer chocolate and dark raspberry flavors.
Nero d’Avola typically has high tannins, medium acidity and a strong body. However, it can also be very smooth if grown at higher elevations where cooler temperatures restrict the alcohol levels. Because of its generous color, Nero d’Avola is sometimes produced as a rosé wine.