Those that have been reading here a while may remember my past struggles with Italian wines. While I still struggle with Sangiovese, things have greatly improved as I have expanded my horizons within the countries offerings. To name a few of these grapes Dolcetto, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and of course Nero d’Avola have won me over. The tipping point for me were my visits to Delfina Pizzeria where they usually have a varietal on the menu that I have never heard of but upon being introduced ended up enjoying. The majority of these were from Southern Italy, first they turned me on to Aglianico and shortly thereafter to Nero d’Avola which brings us to the point of today’s post.
After trying, and enjoying, a few low cost options I was curious to see what a $10+ bottle could offer that those on the other end of the pricing scale could not deliver. A month or so back I finally grabbed the below mentioned Poggio Bidini from K&L Wines to see if the extra investment was worthwhile. And so it began. Shortly thereafter I received the Dievole Pinocchio as a sample from Pasternak Wine Imports as part of a six pack showcasing some of the value wines from their portfolio (more to come on the others soon). Given that these two were at hand and my two regular offerings from Trader Joe’s were in the rack as well it seemed a shame to pass up the opportunity to taste a flight of Nero d’Avola’s so that is what I did. Thus the “Battle of Nero d’Avola” came to be, fought on a temperate summer night in Northern California. Agreed World War II it was not but I had fun with it, that said I kept it casual, no blind tasting, and invited some other people to join. Here are some quick notes (mainly mine) on each of the wines:
2007 Archero Nero d’Avola Ruggero di Tasso ($4) – The first bottle of Nero d’Avola I ever bought, this one is a Trader Joe’s staple now in its 3rd vintage. Fortunately the quality has remained over the years. Of the wines this was easily the fruitiest showing jammy, chewy fruit. Without food there is not a lick of acid to be spoken of, when paired a bit more shows but it remains a fruit forward offering. Comes off as one dimensional but most certainly an easy quaffer.
2007 Epicuro Nero d’Avola ($5) Another TJ’s staple in its second vintage this one hails from a long line of great value bottles from the Epicuro label that hail from southern Italy. They originally caught my eye with their Aglianico offering which I adored. I would describe this one as a little less fruit forward and I do mean a little. It also show more earthiness and spice and finishes a bit on the tart side which gives this one an extra dimension in the flavor profile (more realistically a half of a dimension) over the Archero.
2008 Dievole Pinocchio Nero d’Avola ($10) – As mentioned I received this one as a sample from Pasternak Wine Imports and was immediately excited on pulling it out of the box. With restraint, I let it rest for a week before entering it into this battle royal. This one is immediately different from the first two on the nose, almost a bit herbal with red fruit in the background. This one is not fruit led on the palate. A bit tarter early on and certainly not jammy at all. Perhaps a hint of mineral (can it be?) provides a nice segway from the mid palate to the finish which is nicely balanced with acid and what is perhaps the first tannins of the day. This one, while still a straight forward wine, offers more structure and balance than the previous two offerings.
2007 Poggio Bidini Nero d’Avola ($13) – Next up was this Poggio Bidini from K&L Wines. On the nose this one showed slightly tart with dark fruit and spices with white pepper rising to the top. On the palate this wine is fresh and delivers a nice dose of acidity up front before the earthy, fruity notes in mid palate lead us away to a soft, clean finish. Provides a balance not found in others that offers layers of flavor that are compelling. Great fruit but at the same time restrained and elegant. A wine to definitely buy again.
So there you have it. Back to my questions; “what does a $10+ bottle could offer that those on the other end of the pricing scale could not deliver?” At the end of the day the answer is balance. Given that sometimes I want something that is a bit more fruit forward (and for some more approachable) the Archero and Epicuro will continue to make their way to my wine rack. That said, with these results in hand I plan on continuing to explore Nero d’Avola bottlings across the pricing spectrum.
With that I have two questions for you: 1) Have you tried Nero d’Avola? 2) If so, what have you tried? Or as an alternate if you have tried many, which is your favorite?