Domenico Winery + Osteria

Hillside vineyard in Sicily

Fascinating Italian Grapes 101: Nero D’Avola

You can’t talk about Sicilian wines without mentioning Nero D’Avola. This red grape is a hallmark of Sicilian winemaking. Nero D’Avola is ancient, versatile, and delicious. It’s no wonder that the Nero D’Avola attracted winemakers around the globe, as the grape has found itself new homes in places like California and Australia. 

So, what makes this grape so fascinating? Let’s discover more about the spectacular Nero D’Avola wine grape!

What is Nero D’Avola?

Say hello to the reigning red grape of Sicily. Nero D’Avola carries tons of history and creates incredible wines. It wasn’t until recently that this grape was called Nero D’Avola. It was commonly known as Calabrese.

Nero D’Avola is grown practically all over the island (and beyond.) Nero D’Avola has the potential to produce simple wines and structured wines. Nero always shows its vibrant fruit character and Mediterranean origins in all its styles.

Town of Ragusa, Italy

The History Behind Nero D’Avola

Nero D’Avola is almost as ancient as Sicily. Most believe this grape arrived on the island with the Greeks over 2000 years ago. Yet, the first account of this grape was in the 1500s, when it was called Calabrese.

So, you may be wondering – how did this grape change names? It is all because of its name in the Sicilian dialect- Calau Avulisi. Meaning ‘coming down from Avola,’ Calau Avulisi is a specific description of the dark-berried grape from Avola, a small town near Ragusa. Over time, Calau Avulisi slowly evolved into another name – Calabrese – which has nothing to do with Calabria. Only a few years ago did this grape change its name again – to Nero D’Avola, its original meaning!

Today, Nero D’Avola grows all over Sicily. While it was long grown for export to other regions of Italy, Nero D’Avola now stands on its own in single varietal blends. It also makes an excellent blending grape with Frappato, specifically in the wine region of Vittoria.

Nero D’Avola has also ventured outside of its Sicilian home. Grapegrowers and winemakers in other countries continue to take a strong interest in Nero D’Avola. California, for example, is home to microclimates very similar to Sicily. Nero D’Avola can also withstand heat, making California a perfect new home for this Sicilian grape.

What Does Nero D’Avola Taste Like?

When it comes down to character, Nero D’Avola brings a lot to the table. Generally speaking, this grape produces dry red wines with a solid structure, with a nice amount of acidity and silky tannins. When it comes to flavor, it all depends on where Nero D’Avola grows! Grown in higher altitudes, Nero D’Avola has more gentle aromas with wild red berries and herbaceous flavors. When grown in lower altitudes and clay soils, Nero carries more concentrated fruit flavors, with hints of spice and rich dark chocolate. No matter which type you try, Nero D’Avola always has an aromatic and alluring nose to please anyone.

You can also find this Sicilian grape turned into a rosé or even in a sparkling style. There are many producers experimenting with this versatile varietal, creating wines that are exciting and fun.

Curious to try a California Nero D’Avola? Look no further than Domenico Winery’s latest release – a 2017 Nero D’Avola from Tracy Hills. It’s silky and juicy, with aromas of herbs and spice.

Perfect pasta twirl with a glass of nero d'avola wine

Nero D’Avola Food Pairings

When it comes to food, Nero D’Avola is very flexible. It pairs with various dishes, from pasta to fish to meat. You can go traditional with Sicilian pairings like pasta alla norma, stewed octopus in a rich tomato sauce, or a grilled tuna steak. Nero D’Avola is also an amazing pizza wine, pairing easily with a pizza Margherita or even a cheesy meat lover’s pie. 

Have you tried Nero D’Avola wines? We sure hope you get a chance to. Whether you’re savoring one from its original home of Sicily or California, you’re sure to be satisfied. This grape has its own character that will charm most red wine drinkers.

Want to chat about more wine? Never hesitate to reach out to us or visit us at our Tasting Room & Osteria. There, you can let our sommeliers take you through an adventure of our Cal-Italia wine selections.