The dark horse from Sicily
Nero d’avola is a Sicilian red grape variety that is slowly but steadily flexing its way into the Australian wine scene.
According to statistics published by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, production in 2016 was around 860 tonnes. Although this is small compared to other varieties, tonnage is on the rise.
The first Australian nero d’avola was produced by Chalmers and was released in 2009. It was a medium-bodied wine with a unique perfume and plush fruit. Its acidity was bright, and the flavours were in the dark berry spectrum.
Chalmers first bought the variety into Australia in 1998. Nero d’avola’s ability to withstand dry, hot climates made it a good fit with Australian viticulture. The variety is known for its colour, its fragrant red and black berry aromatics, lively acidity and hints of spice. Savoury and floral tones can also be seen.
Although Chalmers’ initial plantings were at their original Euston vineyard in NSW, today they grow the variety at their Merbein and Heathcote vineyards in Victoria.
Bird in Hand makes nero d’avola from the Adelaide Hills, which is a full-flavoured wine with distinct cherry and blackberry flavours. Amato Vino produces a version from the Riverland which is fragrant and medium-bodied, with grapes sourced from Ricca Farms. Calabria makes a very affordable version under their Private Bin label from Riverina fruit.
Mount Horrocks established nero d’avola in 2006, which was one of Australia’s earliest plantings. The latest 2015 vintage is a finely crafted, captivating wine with black fruit aromas and a little spice. It has alluring orange peel nuances on the nose and delicious sour cherry flavours on the palate.
You will find local and Sicilian nero d’avolas popping up on a good number of Australian wine lists, often at very reasonable prices. Rosetta in Melbourne has a particularly good selection as does Pilu in Sydney and Apothecary in Adelaide.
Other Australian producers making nero d’avola include Fox Gordon, Brash Higgins, Unico Zelo, Grosset, La Prova, Tellurian and Santolin, to name but a few. Bellwether makes a bright and savoury rosé from the variety under the Ant Series label.