The Mediterranean wine region is perhaps the prime example of the “old country.” This regards both the culture and the cultivation of wine grapes. Venture to the island of Sicily, and a northeastern glance towards the southern Italian mainland might make one think they left Denmark.
Despite the seemingly obstinate traditionalism that many think engulfs much of the island, a new generation of Sicilian winemaking has melded the wisdom of experience with modern sensibility. Although this doesn’t mean the melancholy strains of “The Godfather” are now available on Guitar Hero, Sicilian wines certainly aren’t merely rustic afterthoughts in wine and liquor stores.
A red varietal that is riding the crest of Millennial curiosity, modern Mediterranean vinification and the constant search for value is the Nero d’Avola. Sicily enjoys consistent growing seasons from year to year, typified by lots of warm sunshine and very little rain. The Nero d’Avola shows its appreciation by not having wild swings in quality from vintage to vintage.
The fruit-forward, approachable profile of Nero d’Avola — see this full-length article — makes it smooth and easy-drinking, meant to be enjoyed with many foods. Below are a couple of great options:
Cusumano Sicilia IGT Nero d’Avola 2008: Brothers Diego and Alberto Cusumano are part of the modern wine revolution in Sicily. The third generation of a family-owned winery, these passionate winemakers have crafted a smooth, supple Nero d’Avola that features black cherry, light spice and cedar on the palate. A great value and a wine that’s versatile enough to pivot from grilled tri-tip, to poultry and roasted vegetables or ratatouille. $10 at Binny’s.
Rocco Nero d’Avola 2008: This Sicilian wine has plenty of what William F. Buckley would have called “empirical gristle.” But the tempest of fruit gets reined in before it becomes overbearing. The tannins are supple, not harsh and the brooding blackberry notes are offset by some bright, red berry nuances as well. A classic preparation of minestrone, plus some bread and a hunk of cheese would pair nicely here – but why be restricted to its culinary brethren? Try it with barbecued chicken, slow cooked and brushed with a honey-and-molasses-tinged barbecue sauce. $10 at Que Syrah in Lakeview.