If I had a deck of Tarot cards or a Ouija board or, heck, even a Magic 8 Ball, I think now would be the perfect time to test its mettle with regard to an upcoming trend. You see, I think I'm on to one, and I'm ready to pass along this little prediction to all my wine-loving friends.
Come to think of it, I did used to be a phone psychic myself, so maybe I should test my own darned mettle, right? Now, I wasn't one of Dionne's Friends or anything, and it was a really long time ago, but maybe I retained a teensy bit of that second sight - at least when it comes to food and wine. You never know...
Anyway, my prediction today is that in the year to come (hooray, '09!) we'll be hearing lots more about Nero d'Avola, a red grape from Sicily that produces a rich, full-flavored wine that's been gaining in popularity here in the U.S. for the past couple of years. This inky purple variety (nero is Italian for black) is Sicily's most popular red grape, but until recently, it was used primarily for blending. Much like many of our other favorites from the vine, Nero d'Avola was content to forgo the spotlight for many long decades in favor of lending its talents to various ensemble casts. In recent years, however, Nero (for short) has come into its own, and I'm getting a pretty sweet crush on this outgoing Italian newcomer.
Many experts liken the flavor of Nero d'Avola to Syrah/Shiraz, as they both often present rich, ripe fruit flavors and hints of spice. I have also run across comparisons to Sangiovese, that famously food-friendly Tuscan variety so often enjoyed in Chianti. Whether sipped with a meal or alone as an aperitif, it should also be noted that Nero tends toward the high end when it comes to alcohol content, a trait to be expected from a fuller-bodied red.
Back in 2006, James Suckling, a Senior Editor of Wine Spectator, raved, "...I think that Nero d'Avola is the grape that is going to make the island's (Sicily's) reputation for world-class reds." That's high praise from a reliable source. Looking back at '08, Prosecco was a big story in wine, and folks from coast to coast fell in love with the budget-friendly bubbly. So why not give another affordable Italian gem a try? To get you started, here's a little shopping list of recommendations available right in your own back yard. Enjoy!
$9.99 at Eatzi's
It's been quite some time since I tried this wine, but I remember it fondly. We enjoyed it pre-dinner with bruschetta and goat cheese, and it worked well with assertive, earthy flavors.
$9.99 at Dallas Fine Wine & Spirits*
What I first noticed about this plucky wine was its nose. (groan) Sorry, couldn't help myself! Really, though, I loved this one, right down to the sketches of that adorable marionette on the label. It offers bright, berry-centric fruit flavors and crisp acidity. Next time, however, I might decant it first to help those flavors mellow just a tad with a breath of fresh air.
$14.99 at Whole Foods
This luscious blend underlines the comparisons that have been made between Nero d'Avola and Sangiovese. It features the close cousins in tight, palate-pleasing harmony.
*I'd also like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to Harshad and Johnny at Dallas Fine Wine & Spirits (3518 Oak Lawn Ave). This is a great shop - friendly, knowledgeable staff and an excellent selection of standards and new "finds".