Nero d'Avola, Sicily's most popular and famous non-fortified wine, is one I first tasted a couple summers ago -- in Orlando's Epcot Center of all places. After a morning of dodging rain showers Nena, my parents and I were ready for lunch. So, we ducked into the Italian village and had a nice lunch at L' Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante.
My mother is 1/2 Sicilian and Nena and I are both part Sicilian as well, so when charged with picking our wine, I chose the only Sicilian on the list...a Nero d'Avola. It was delicious...and extremely food friendly (I always find Italian wines to be among the most food-friendly out there).
So, when Ron chose Sicilian Reds as this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday theme, I was torn. On one hand, I knew I liked Nero and would probably have a good experience. But, on the other hand, I like to use WBW as an excuse to explore and branch out. What other reds could I find from Sicily? Could I find a Sicilian Primitivo? What about a Frappato or a Gaglioppo? I also know that international varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Syrah are being grown there now as well.
Well, a search of a couple local wine shops revealed that my choices would be severely limited for this rendition of WBW. I found a couple Nero d'Avolas...one Cabernet Sauvignon...and that was it. So, I talked to the one shop owner and he recommended this Morgante 2003 Nero d'Avola as "one of my son-in-law's favorites." Seemed like something worth trying...
Morgante is a well-know and well-respected producer (I expect that I probably won't be the only one to review it today) and they work with one of Italy's most famous consulting enologists, Riccardo Cotarella.
Carmelo and Giovanni Morgante, and their father Antonio, the brothers who own it, built their winery and bottling facility just over a decade ago years ago. But, their family grew grapes and sold them to other wineries for many generations before that.
Giovanni has been quoted saying that his family "has always believed in the quality of Nero d'Avola," and that by lowering yields and discovering the best viticulture techniques "the wines are very different now than five years ago."
The first vintage of this wine was bottled in 1998 with around 200,000 bottles produced annually from 75 acres of grapes. It's made from 100% Nero d'Avola and the vineyards are around 1,600 feet above sea level. The frute was fermented for 18 days in temperature controlled, stainless steel tanks (very common with Nero d'Avola) and then aged for 4 months in Allier barrique.
Eyes: This wine is an inviting, dark ruby in the center of the glass with a lighter, almost magenta rim.
Nose: Almost Syrah-like, the nose is filled with rich red cherry aromas with sweet and savory spice. Nena noted "raspberries...lots of raspberries" as well.
Tongue: Definitely low tannin, but somewhat complex with intense cherry flavors and lingering spicy vanilla hints creeping in toward the end. Very well balanced given this wine's considerable acidity...which, as I said earlier, I love with food.
Food: To accompany this wine, Nena maded chicken roulades stuffed with roasted red peppers and mozzarella...and lots of fresh cracked pepper. Along side, we enjoyed spaghetti squash with plenty of butter and parmesan cheese. It was a great meal and the wine worked very well with it. I think this wine would really work with a variety of foods...from pizza...to mom's red sauce...to grilled burgers.
Overall: This one was a hit with both me and Nena. I know I keep saying "food friendly" but it really really is. I love acidity in my food wines...and I'd happily serve this with a big Italian dinner. In fact, I think I'll take a couple bottles of this upstate with us the next time FMIL (future mother in law) is going to make such a feast.