This is my entry for Wine Blogging Wednesday number eight, which this month is all about Sicily, and hosted by Ron over at Love Sicily. The order of the day is to blog about a Sicilian red wine (I am trying to say Sicily as much as I can here).
I kind of decided to play it safe this time around, since the last two months I have had bad bottles (yes, even when I made multiple attempts to get something drinkable) and absolutely no luck getting a decent bottle to drink. So I played it a little safe with some Nero d'Avola, and I actually got two different bottles, which is good, because guess what-- my backup bottle was bad (the bottle seemed to have suffered some heat damage and the cork was pushed up from the bottle a bit, and that would have been fine, but it tasted pretty acrid). Originally I thought I could compare and contrast the two different bottles (from two different producers) of Nero d'Avola, but sadly, one is out of the running.
However, that means I actually had one reasonable bottle to drink! So away we go.
Region: Sicily, Italy
Composition: 100% Nero d'Avola
Background: Sicily, known mostly for Marsala, also grows a fair variety of grapes for light wines, ranging from Primitivo (Zinfandel) and Cabernet Sauvignon to Frappato and Perricone. Nero d'Avola, also known as Calabrese (and it is not from Calabria, but that name is probably one of those slightly-off-translation names that results from different languages colliding), is probably the most well-known non-fortified Sicilian wine. Up to the 1980's it was mostly used to boost lighter and weaker red wines, and production was decreasing until then, when it took on a new life, probably partly because winemakers figured out a few tricks (consisting mostly of keeping the grapes very cool post-picking and pre-pressing) that allowed them to make tasty but not over-the-top wines, rather than the heavy and overpowering wines that had come from the grape previously.
Gulfi is both old and new on the wine scene. The estate, located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, has existed for a while, but the grapes grown were sold to other producers. In 1996 Vito Catania decided to change all that, and started producing wines under the estate name (as well as olive oil). He uses an old and traditional method of wine growing that has been used in Sicily for 2,000 years but is going out of style now because it is hard to use equipment on the vines grown that particular way, and workers are hard to come by. So he's made some adjustments, and has imported a French mini-tractor onto the island to help with the work. In 2001 Gulfi produced about 8,500 cases of wine, so that tractor is working hard.
Notes: Deep burgundy purple, opaque in the center, almost black, so it's living up to its name--"Nero d'Avola" literally means "Black [grape] of Avola". It's tarry, with red and black fruit (blackberries and black cherry), bark, and earth on the nose. It's heavy in the mouth, almost unctuous (which seems like a pretentious thing to say, I know, but it has a placidity in the mouth that is elegant and thick and heavy at the same time, so what can I do). The tannins are soft and velvety and meld into the slightly spicy finish of medium length. Flavorwise, red fruit is present, mostly a soft cherry, and in the finish there is a hint of bitters (I had to think about that and actually go taste some bitters to make sure). I decanted it for about an hour and a half while I made dinner and we had it with pasta and roasted tomatoes and rapini, which was very nice. Tonight I had the final glass with a simple pizza I made (tomatoes/basil/cheese) and it held up nicely.