I have a tendency to overlook red wine for white — a dangerous habit in a world where red wines are perhaps more popular and equally, if not more, delicious. Wines with anthocyanins, the compound from grape skin that makes red wines red, continue to demand my attention. Nero d’Avola is no exception. The first time I uncorked the Abbazia Santa Anastasia Nero d’Avola — the most widely planted grape variety on the Italian island of Sicily — I wanted to bow to the bottle. The 2014 Abbazia Santa Anastasia Nero d’Avola is a wine I will return to often.
Among several other Sicilian red wines, Nero d’Avola is often imported to the United States, though the appellations are relatively unestablished; as a result, a bottle can be proffered at miraculous prices. This bottle of deep hued, dark-grape Nero d’Avola however, is a relatively inexpensive bottle that belongs among the great and delicious. And when I say “dark-grape,” I mean this quite literally as “Nero d’Avola” actually translates to “Black of Avola.” Historically, the grape was used as a blender to build up and darken the profiles of other grapes. But no more, as the Abbazia Santa Anastasia has made Nero d’Avola the star of the show, featuring 100% of the grape. If you like spicy Syrah/Shiraz, or full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon but sometimes find them to be too fruit-forward, you might be a fan of this wine (like me).
With a deep purple hue, the wine is medium-bodied (13.5% alcohol) and tastes like black cherry, plum, and black currants with an overcoat of black pepper and a touch of smoky tobacco. Additionally, there is enough tannin to balance the fruitiness, but not sucker-punch one’s mouth. This wine can indeed be enjoyed on its own; however, with food, it is like David Bowie in heels with a silver star on his cheek: better prepared for performance. But don’t take my word for it–uncork this wine for yourself at dinner tomorrow, or put it away and see what this wine will say after 5-10 years, as it’s meaty, tannic structure lends plenty of aging potential. Enjoy this wine with hamburgers, pork-loin soups, BBQ, or a simple, quality steak, and discover the mystery that lies behind Sicily’s most popular red wine.