Showing posts with label Nero D'Avola. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nero D'Avola. Show all posts

Thursday, June 6, 2024

The phoenix rises! The superb Tenuta Fenice Nero D’Avola. “I think my grandfather would have been very proud.”

Tenuta Fenice Nero D’Avola Sicilia (DOC) 2021, 14% ABV

€16.00 Bubble Brothers.

The phoenix rises! A superb wine. “I think my grandfather would have been very proud.”

This rich, ruby-coloured wine is made from vines abandoned for decades after a devastating earthquake in western Sicily in 1968.

Dino Taschetta tells quite a story on his label: “…Residents had no choice but to

Monday, January 15, 2024

Seductive and spicy, this Nero D’Avola will put a spell on you.

Seductive and spicy, this Nero D’Avola will put a spell on you.

Baglio Antico Nero D’Avola Sicilia (DOP) 2020, 13% ABV.

RRP €21.95. Stockists: Le Caveau, 64 Wine, Greenman Wines, Bradleys Cork

This full-bodied, ripe and juicy red from the sun-drenched Italian island of Sicily is produced from the island’s most important and most loved red wine grape Nero D’Avola. Our unoaked and organic wine is a terrific example of the variety.

The colour is a deep red. Dark berries and a little spice on the nose follow on to the palate. Packed with ripe black cherry fruit and hints of pepper, the supple wine has an immediately noticeable and deliciously refreshing acidity. A bright, fresh, modern wine, with a dry finish, it is an easy drinker for sure.

Highly Recommended.

The Baglio Rosso is 100% Nero d’Avola from certified organic vineyards. Short maceration of a week of whole bunch (40%) and destemmed (60%) grapes. Wild yeast, no sulphur, no fining, no filtration. It has been praised for its excellent balance. Serve at 14-16 °C with Red meat, game, and mature cheeses.


Check my growing list of top wines


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A baglio is a courtyard at the centre of a walled, fortified estate, typical of rural Sicily. The history of the Cantine Rallo wine estate started in 1860 and Rallo was synonymous with quality, reliability and authenticity. At the end of the 90s, the Vesco family turned Cantine Rallo into a modern estate, producing wines organically. Andrea Vesco runs the winery, with expert commitment, personally and meticulously attending to all the stages of production from the cultivation of the grapes to the final bottling,.

The dark-skinned grape has a long history in Sicily and takes its name from the town of Avola. Much of that history though saw the grape used in blends in the island and on the mainland. Over the last few decades, there has been, thanks to producers such as the Vesco family, an upward turn for Nero D’Avola and it is now common to find it produced as a varietal wine. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sicilian Duo by Donnafugata Shine in the Glass!

Sicilian Duo by Donnafugata Shine in the Glass!

Donnafugata `Sherazade` Nero d’Avola Sicilia (DOC) 2019, 13% 

RRP €23.99 64 Wine; Alain and Christine Wine and Card Shop; Avoca Handweavers Shops; Cashel Wine Cellar; Drink Store; Ely Wine Store; Fallon & Byrne; The Hen and Hog, Ashford Co. Wicklow; Jus de Vine; Mannings Emporium; McHughs Off Licence - Kilbarrack Rd; Red Island Wine Co; Searsons Wine Merchants; The Corkscrew; Thomas Woodberry’s; Whelehans Wines;

A brilliant ruby is the colour of this Sherazade, produced from the Nero D’Avola grape, the red grape of Sicily. Aromas are fresh and fruity. And it is much the same combination on the palate. Much lighter than you’d expect and you can see why it is often recommended as an aperitif (slightly chilled). It tends more towards Pinot Noir and Gamay rather than Cabernet Sauvignon. Soft, with plum and cherry and smooth tannins and spicy fruit, this is a beauty, a fragrant and pleasant wine with outstanding freshness. Very Highly Recommended

The 2019 vintage began with a mild winter and a wet spring. The summer months were drier, the grapes were healthy and ripened well. Yields were lower than in the previous two years. Those excellent grapes promised much by way of aromatics and balance and that promise was delivered in the winery. 

Donnafugata suggest matching it with fish soup, pizza or classic tomato spaghetti. Luckily we had a take-out from the superb Osteria Da Mirco in Cork city and the Sherazade did very well indeed with the Parmigiana di melanzane, Cannelloni di Magro and Polpette al Sugo (with Tagliatelle) and we're able to confirm the producer’s suggestions! It was served, slightly chilled, at around 15 degrees.

Sherazade (or Scheherazade) is a major female character and the storyteller in the Oriental collection of tales known as the One Thousand and Nights.

Donnafugata `Sur Sur` Grillo Siclia (DOC) 2020, 13%, 

RRP €23.99 Alain and Christine Wine and Card Shop; Blackrock Cellar; Mannings Emporium; Martins Off Licence; Searsons Wine Merchants; The Corkscrew;

This Grillo wine, from an ancient white grape variety of Sicily, has a very light straw colour. Its aromatics are quite intense, fresh and fruity, floral and herbal notes as well. And you get much the same combination on the light and lively palate with peach (especially) and melon to the fore. 

The producers recommend serving at 9-11 degrees and pairing with seafood appetisers, vegetarian first courses, and roasted fish. I got a lovely surprise with this one as it is perhaps the best Grillo that I’ve come across and Very Highly Recommended

Importers Liberty tell us the Rallo family has made wine in Marsala since 1851 in their ancient cellars tunnelled beneath the city. “They were one of the first families to begin making high-quality table wine when sales of traditional Marsala started to decline, launching the Donnafugata label in 1983 and championing the potential of the region’s native varieties.”

Grillo is an ancient autochthonous Sicilian grape variety, but it is also a cute little animal (the cricket) that brings good luck. The name sur sur, that means cricket, comes from the classical Arabic language which was once also spoken in Sicily. The voice of spring, with its scents and colors, is depicted on the label. It shows Gabriella (founder of Donnafugata, with her husband Giacomo) as a girl in flight, running barefoot through the flowers and fresh grass, following the singing of crickets that sounds sweet to her ears, like a thousand “SurSur… “

According to, Grillo has become a viable contender for the quintessential Italian table white: light, easy-drinking and often associated with very good value and competes well with better known Italian white grapes. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

An Easy-drinking Double From Two Of Sicily’s Most Popular Grapes

An Easy-drinking Double From Two Of Sicily’s Most Popular Grapes

Did you know that the the vineyard area of Sicily is among the largest in Italy? It's about 107,000 hectares, about twice the size of a region like Emilia-Romagna or Tuscany. Nero D'Avola is the most popular red grape here while Grillo is a well known white grape.

Zabu Nero D’Avola Sicily (DOC) 2018, 13%, €14.99
Baggot Street Wines, JJ O’Driscolls,  Martins, Drinkstore, Cinnamon Cottage, Power & Co, Red Island and

The Nero d’Avola grape, sometimes compared to Shiraz, is the most important and widely planted red wine grape variety in Sicily and is called after a town on the island. Importers Liberty Wines tell us the fruit for this wine is grown by Lake Arancio, in Sambuca di Sicilia. The crystal clear water of the lake creates an ideal microclimate for this eminently drinkable red.

A beautiful mid ruby colour. Attractive aromas also, fruity, floral, a hint of herb. Juicy cherries in a warm body, soft tannins contribute to its drinkability, and that juicy plummy fruit takes you through the persistent finish. Aged in stainless steel tanks, the wine is well balanced, uncomplicated maybe, but still an excellent companion for first courses, grilled and roasted meat, good with medium-aged cheeses, also as an aperitif. 

Serving temperature recommended is 16-18 degrees. Not too sure I’ve come across as light an Nero D’Avola as this. Highly Recommended.

Zabu Grillo Sicily (DOC) 2018, 12%, €15.99
Jus De Vine, Cinnamon Cottage, JJ O’Driscolls  and

Grillo is a Sicilian white grape variety most famous for its role in the island's fortified Marsala wines. Despite Marsala's decline in popularity, Grillo is still widely planted on the island.

Light to mid-straw, with tints of gold. Fresh on the nose, peach and citrus notes. Fruit-driven flavours (peach and citrus again)  on the palate, a refreshing wine with a long dry finish.  A nice light fresh and uncomplicated white wine. Recommended.

Suggested pairings:fish dishes (crab), fresh cheese, light risotto, couscous and fish soup. Great with smoked fish. Serving temperature: 10-12°C.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Whites Shine in O'Brien's Summer Promotion

Whites Shine in O'Brien's Summer Promotion

There's a whole world of white wine out there aside from the big names such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio. The O'Brien's Summer Promotion, now in full swing (until July 21st), gives you the chance to try something new. I took advantage myself as I sampled a few, including a gorgeous Verdejo from Spain, a fresh and fruity Verdicchio from Italy, a Grüner Veltliner (a long-time favourite of mine) from Austria, and a top notch Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Terrific wines and now at very attractive prices. While I did concentrate on the whites, the reds too are excellent and that Sicilian Appassimento will go down well at most tables.

De Alberto Organic Verdejo Rueda (DO) 13.5%, on offer 12.95 (was 14.95). New at O’Brien’s

The more I drink Spanish whites, like this Verdejo (new to O'Brien's), the more I begin to appreciate them. This organic wine, by De Alberto, is refreshing and quite intense (with citrus to the fore) and is Very Highly Recommended.

Colour is a light straw, clean and bright, with a green tint. Ripe white fruit, herby notes too in the aromas. Superb fruit flavours make their presence felt instantly, a lively citrus-y acidity too, lips a tingle and a persistent and very pleasing finish. Enjoy with poultry, fish and seafood

The 2018 vintage enjoyed good weather conditions, no extremes at all, and this meant the grape stayed healthy and reached an optimum state of maturity.

Verdejo, which may not be familiar to us as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, is an aromatic grape variety behind the crisp white wines of Rueda, its undisputed home in central Spain. Wine-Searcher says that full-bodied Verdejo wines are held in high regard, displaying herbaceous, nutty characters with balanced acidity and some cellaring potential.

Marotti “Albiano” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (DOC) Classico 2018, 13%, €11.95 on offer, was 14.95. O’Brien’s

I’m a big fan of Verdicchio, whether it is from Castelli di Jesi or from Matelica (a bit further inland). Both are in the Marche in the central eastern part of Italy. And this typically refreshingly crisp Albiano is as good an example as you are likely to come across.

It comes in a light straw colour, greenish tinges, lots of micro-bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass. There’s a pleasant aromatic mix of floral and white fruit, moderate rather than intense. Bright and lively palate, citrus led flavours with a barely noticeable herbaceousness, and that typical zesty acidity. 

Unoaked, there is nothing overly complex here, dry, fresh, fruity. Good finish too and this well-made wine is Very Highly Recommended, a good one to start your relationship with this grape if you haven’t already done so!

I enjoyed this as an aperitif but I’ve read that it goes well with Brodetto di Pesce, a rich seafood stew made locally in the Marche. You may not be able to get that here and other recommendations include seared scallops, Linguini with clams, other shellfish, with pasta and rice dishes, and salads, even pecorino cheese. It is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Rabl Grüner Veltliner Löss Kamptal (DAC) 2018, 11.5%, €14.95 (was 18.95). O’Brien’s

From peachy attack to citrus finish, this Grüner Veltliner goes the delicious distance. The Grüner Veltliner grape, known for its aromatic fruity wines, gets on very well with the local Löss soil.

Colour is light gold. There is a fresh bouquet of white and yellow fruit, a touch of white pepper. Peach and citrus mingle well in the tingly palate. Mineral notes too plus excellent acidity. All followed by a lip-smacking dry finish. Fresh, crisp and zesty, a refreshing experience and Highly Recommended.

The Rabl Winery in Langenlois has three guiding principles: 1. Only perfect grapes can yield a top wine. 2. Must from perfect grapes allows minimal intervention. 3. No fear of powerful wines! Rabl are well regarded and they recommend pairing this generous and refreshing wine with light starters or as an aperitif. Should go well too with simple fish dishes, fresh shellfish and salads.

This is new to O’Brien’s and worth keeping an eye out for. The fruits are hand-harvested with careful selection, barrel and tank fermented and the wine is further barrel matured for a rounded complexity. Ideal, according to the label, with seafood and shellfish, also with mildly spiced curries and lovely with saffron.

This ia regular award winner over recent years and comes in light gold colour. White fruit and honey notes in moderately intense aromas. A good depth of flavour follows: apricot, melon, plus touch of vanilla. No shortage of acidity either. Quite a mouthfeel too - it has spent some 9 months on lees. It is harmonious all the way through to a very satisfying finalé. Another ace Chenin Blanc from Forrester and this rich and ripe wine is Very Highly Recommended.

Fonte do Ouro Branco DÃO (DOC) 2018, 13%, on offer 13.95, was 16.95. O’Brien’s

Portuguese wines can often be a hard sell because of the unfamiliar names of the grapes but don’t let that put you off. You could be missing out on some real gems such as this white blend of Arinto and Encruzado, ideal with starters, seafood and fish when served at 10 degrees. Like the way Boas Quintas (the producers) sum it up on the label: green colour, apple, pear, and tropical fruit aromas, good structure, fresh and mineral.

Pretty accurate too, I’d have to say. Colour is a light straw with a pronounced green influence. You’ll find peach, apple, pear and more exotic notes too in the aromas. A very pleasant melange of flavours on the palate, mouthfeel also impressive, fresh too with minerality, and acidity enough to balance. Finish is persistent. Highly Recommended.

Fonte do Ouro Tinto DÃO (DOC) 2017, 13%, on offer 13.95, was 16.95. O’Brien’s
And here's another good one from the same stable, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Jaen. This fresh and smooth wine has spent six months in oak and should be served at 16 to 18 degrees and will go well with red meats.

It has a dark ruby colour. Fairly rich aromas of blackcurrant and cherry. I see lots of references to Earl Grey Tea but must admit I didn't pick it up in the nose. There’s a great mix of those fruit flavours on the palate, fresh, with a touch of spice, smooth tannins and a very satisfying finish. Highly Recommended.

All three grapes are popular in the region. The Alfrocheiro adds depth of colour, Touriga Nacional is considered to be the country’s finest, while Jaen is the local name for the what the Spanish call Mencía.

Colpasso Nero D’Avola Appassimento Sicily (DOC) 2018, 14%, on offer at €12.95 (was 15.95). New to O’Brien’s.

Appassimento? You may well ask. If you ask Wine Spectator, they’ll tell you it is the Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months, to concentrate the sugars and flavors. 

Appassimento is most associated with northern Italy but there are many examples in the south and this Colpasso is one. Here they make a careful selection of the very best Nero D’Avola grape in the Sicilian area of Agrigento and Vittoria. Some of the grapes are partially dried prior to vinification “giving the wine an incredible intense flavour”. You’ll note that intensity at your very first sip.

Colour is a dark ruby. Those rich red fruit are noticeable in the aromas, immediately. And the flavours are indeed rich and intense, the main feature of the velvety palate, some spice there too, and a hint of sweetness. A good example of appassimento, easy drinking and Highly Recommended.

Check out my post on a few of the O'Brien rosés here

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Three Mid-Winter Reds. Santa Will Love Them.

Three Mid-Winter Reds. Santa Will Love Them.

Dear Santa. I have been a little bit naughty but I have said sorry am I still aloud a present. I would love these three bottles of red, please.

Hello CorkBilly: I heard about the naughty bit! We'll get over that. These three would work for the Christmas /festive season and or as winter warmers. They are sustainable and/or organic in the production of the wine.

And Marcus, who was an able deputy for Santa, says "these wines reflect the Liberty wines ethos and continue our sustainability focus and curb the effects of climate change by reducing our carbon footprint." You will also note that Rudolph will be wearing a nappy this year; Santa was in Killarney in July checking out the jarveys and their horses.

Bodegas Arráez Monastrell Barrica “Vivir sin Dormir” Jumilla (DOC) 2016, 14.5%, €18.99 Blackrock Cellar, JJ O’Driscoll Cork,

An eye-catching label and a rather fancy name draws you to this Spanish red on the shelf. The 100% Monastrell (Mourvedre in France) is grown organically on limestone soils in a high hot region 90 kilometres from the Mediterranean.

Colour is a dark ruby and the legs are slow to clear, confirming the 14.5% alcohol. Aromas are quite intense, cherry and plum noted. Intense too on the fruit-forward palate, warm and spicy also, good fresh acidity, a hint also of its few months in a mix of Hungarian, French and US oak. Good length on the finish also, the fruit still vibrant. A superb expression of the grape and Very Highly Recommended. Food match: Himalayan Salt Aged Cote de Boeuf. 

Blanville Merlot Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 13%, RRP €14.99 Cinnamon Cottage Cork, Menloe Store Cork, Next door Off licence Ennis and

From the Sud de France comes a Merlot to appreciate. Colour is mid to dark ruby and in the aromas there is a mix of red and dark fruit, a hint of liquorice also. It is certainly a smooth customer on the palate, full of flavour with terrific balance, some sweet spice and plush tannins. This very approachable wine has a superb long finish and is Very Highly Recommended.

The family-owned estate, built parcel by parcel from scratch in 1997, recommend serving it at 16-17 degrees and pairing with red meat and cheese.

The year in the vineyard didn’t get off to the best of starts with a cold rainy winter followed by very frosty spring. Early heavy rains though helped the vines through the exceptionally dry and warm mid-summer and harvest, at the end of August, was “one of the earliest on record”.

Bernard and Beatrice Nivollet came from Paris to realise their dream of becoming wine producers and now have some 40 hectares. No chemical fertilisers are used as they practice “organic cultivation and biodynamics”.

Zabu “Il Passo Verde” Nero D’Avola Sicily (DOC) 2017, 13.5%, €17.99 RRP, McHughs Off Licence - Kilbarrack Rd, Baggot Street Wines, Finian Sweeney,   

This Vignetti Zabù organic wine is a dark ruby colour. Intense dark and red fruit aromas. Same intensity on the palate, elegant juicy fruit, spicy too, and no let-up in the long lingering finish. 

Quite an excellent expression of the Nero D’Avola grape, full-bodied and deep-coloured, and Very Highly Recommended, particularly with red meat and game; they also recommended medium aged cheese.

The vineyards were planted in 2005 around Lake Arancio in Sambucca di Sicilia. The crystal clear waters provides an ideal micro-climate for the low-yielding vines, and protects them from the heat of the summer. This too was a hot summer, just three showers in July and August!

Only the best grapes were selected and they had a long fermentation, the aim being to extract colour, body and aromas. Half were aged in barriques, the rest in concrete tanks, both for six months. 

Nero D’Avola, almost always part of a blend in the previous century, is now regularly bottled as a varietal. It is often compared to Syrah because it likes similar growing conditions (Sicily has a hot Mediterranean climate) and exhibits many similar characteristics.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Italian Duo Delight. One Red. One White.

This week, we spotlight two Italian grapes. The Nero D'Avola is mostly associated with Sicily while some of the best Verdicchio comes from the Marche (pronounced Mark-ay). These, both from Liberty Wines, are excellent examples of the types....

Donnafugata Sherazade Nero d’Avola Sicilia (DOC) 2015, 13%, €22.99 J.J. O’Driscoll (Cork)Wine Online.
This lovely wine is produced in Marsala in Sicily where Nero d’Avola, a native vine, is the main red grape. No oak used in this one; stainless steel for two months and then close to three months in bottle before release.

Women feature in the name here. The Donnafugata, the vineyard name, means fleeing woman while Sherazade is the “spicy” heroine of the Arabian Nights, the art work a feature of the wines from this producer and in this case Stefano Vitale is the artist. Donnafugata are also associated with music and architecture (their winery on nearby Pantelleria*, for example).

The label is certainly eye-catching and the wine looks well in its brilliant ruby robe. A melange of berries, cherries and plum too in the fragrant bouquet. The soft palate reflects the fruits encountered in the aromas. Tannins are smooth. Fresh and fruity and gentle all the way to a warm and satisfying finish. A very pleasant drink indeed and Highly Recommended.

A versatile wine too. Ideal as an aperitif but, more surprisingly, also good with grilled fish. No surprise though that it pairs well with pasta and pizza.
  • On this small island, Donnafugata produce `Ben Ryé`, a famous sweet wine (also carried by Liberty).
Bucci Verdicchio de Castelli di Jesi (DOC) Classico Superiore 2015, 13.5%, €23.99 J.J. O’Driscoll (Cork), Wine Online.
Bucci are a standard-bearer of the Jesi, according to Vino Italiano. Ampelio Bucci, the winemaker, is also a professor in Milan and is a highly influential thinker on the subject, extensively quoted in the recently published “The Modern History of Italian Wine”.

Here only estate grown grapes have been used and they are certified organic (no herbicides, no pesticides). It has a lovely golden colour. Maybe not the most flamboyant of bouquets, blossoms and pine notes in the mix. 

No shortage of weight on the superb palate, flavours of ripe apples and citrus, acidity here too and all combine in the excellent finish where you might also find a trace of honey. This clean, delicately aromatic and brightly acidic wine is Highly Recommended.

Just one note. Don't over-chill this. Much more rewarding to drink it too warm than too cold. Wood, by the way, is used by Bucci but only a portion of the juice goes into the ancient Slovenian barrels for fermentation, the rest goes into stainless steel, the idea being to enrich rather than obscure the grapes natural qualities. 

Try this for some Verdicchio fun. Get a bottle from Jesi and another from Matalica (another good area for the grape in the Marche). See which one you prefer!