Showing posts with label Sicily. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sicily. Show all posts

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


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


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. 

Monday, January 8, 2024

Delightful Occhipinti from lands caressed by the Mediterranean.

Delightful Occhipinti from lands caressed by the Mediterranean.

Occhipinti SP68 Rosso Terre Siciliane (IGT) 2022, 11% ABV

RRP: €29.95.  Stockists: Le Caveau, 64 Wine, Greenman Wines, Bradleys Cork

This still, dry red wine (a blend of Frappato 70% Nero D'Avola 30%) is made by Arianna Occhipinti in the south-east corner of the Italian Island of Sicily

It has a bright and inviting ruby colour (reminiscent of Pinot Noir or Gamay). Aromas are gentle, with red fruits like wild cherries and raspberries, also floral notes, and herbal too.  Plum and cherry and berry again in the strikingly delightful and stimulating progress on the palate. There is fine acidity and soft tannins in a beautiful easy-drinking wine.  

Very Highly Recommended.

A delightful wine to sip and matches well with grilled meats, fish, roasted veg, and caramelised onions. Serve at 16-18° C.


Check my list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


The SP68 is the name of the main road that passes near to Arianna’s home town of Vittoria….it lies in the far south of Sicily just to the west of Ragusa. It is here that she has been making wine for the past ten years under the tutelage of her uncle, Giusto Occhipinti, who owns and runs the famous COS estate.

There is no rush either in the vineyard or the winery, ample time is allowed. “Biodiversity is the central theme of our farm. Contributing to maintaining this balance between plants, animals, small organisms and nature as a whole is our goal. We feel like custodians of this place in the south of Sicily, among its red sands, limestone and dry stone walls. Lands that look and listen to the Mediterranean. We believe in the dialogue between different crops as has always been done in our agricultural tradition.”  

So, not just wine when you visit: here you may buy fruit, jam, juices, flour, olive oil, vegetables, even Grappa!

Interestingly, that southeast corner of the island is more southerly than the northern tip of Africa’s Tunisia. Indeed, Arianna’s town of Vittoria is more or less level with the city of Tunis, with Vittoria at 36.95 degrees, Tunis at 36.80. Vittoria though is certainly more southerly than the Tunisian seaside city of Bizerte, the northernmost city in Africa, with a latitude of 37.27. Cork, as you know, is at 51.89.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

A Cabernet Franc Supreme. And an intriguing Sicilian white from red grapes.

A Cabernet Franc Supreme. And an intriguing Sicilian white from red grapes.

Clau de Nell Cabernet Franc Anjou (AOC) 2017, 13%

RRP €43.99 - The Corkscrew - Blackrock Cellar - The Ely Wine Store, Maynooth - 64 Wine

A pretty deep red colour with a  lighter rim. Aromas are fresh and intensely fruity. A terrific complexity on the palate but all’s in elegant harmony, that superb fruit and the fresh acidity, and that balance continues through the persistent and dry finish. Have liked this characterful variety since I spent a month in Chinon a few years back and this particular wine is Very Highly Recommended.

They say: This is certainly the direction in which we are trying to go. Healthy and balanced grapes, concentrated and vinified with finesse to tend towards delicacy and elegance. From red fruit to cooked fruit through black fruit, spices and a floral bouquet, this is a wine of beautiful complexity that invites indulgence. A velvety texture with silky tannins.


Pairings suggested are: Duck breast with red fruits or honey; Semi-cooked seared tuna and vegetables with butter sauce; Pan-fried chestnuts, chanterelles and quinoa…The best pairings are the ones that inspire you, and allow you to express yourself. Let your imagination run free…Serve at 16°C, do not hesitate to decant - good advice!

This was bottled on a “fruit day”, meaning that your Clau de Nell is not just organic but biodynamic. Think you may be interested in the info on their data sheet.

Age: vines from 45 to 55 years. Pruning: mixed Guyot Techniques: covering the vine stock with soil in autumn, ploughing-down in spring, tilling and natural grassing. Growing methods: biodynamic practices, infusions and plant decoctions, depending upon the lunar calendar. Yield: about 40 hl/ha Harvest: handpicking in 12 kg crates, sorting at the parcel when fully ripened. • Winemaking De-stemmed harvest, native yeast, 30-day maceration without extraction. Gentle cap punching, limited pumping over, infusion techniques. Pressing: slow and gentle pressing in a pneumatic press. • Maturing 12 months on fine lees in Burgundy casks (228L) used 5 to 7 times, followed by 6 months in vats. Bottling: without filtration or fining on a “fruit day.”

Terrazze dell'Etna, `Ciuri` Etna Bianco 2017, 13% 

RRP €26.99. - Grapevine - The Corkscrew - The Ely Wine Store, Maynooth

'Ciuri' is made from Nerello Mascalese,  an indigenous Sicilian red wine grape, in this case vinified 'in Bianco' without the skins. A similar if better-known example of the technique is used in Champagne to produce white from Pinot Noir, the blanc de noirs. The Ciuri is unoaked with great depth and intensity and wonderful length.

Pale straw is the colour, clean and bright. Fresh floral notes, exotic fruit too on the nose. Fresh and fruity (citrusy) and certainly minerally in the mouth. This youthful gem has been aged for six months in stainless-steel and then also in bottle before release. I don’t think you need keep it bottled up any longer. Just open and enjoy. Highly Recommended.

They say: From the volcanic soil of Etna comes this sapid and “high mineralised” wine. A unique wine characterised by a vibrant floral heart on the nose, a synthesis of the elegance of the grape, Nerello Mascalese, and the personality of the soil.

Professor Antonio Bevilacqua is an engineer by profession and has a very successful business, based in Palermo and Milan. He is very proud of his Sicilian origins, and in 2007 he decided to start buying land in Etna with a view to producing the best wines possible. 

Today he has 35 hectares of vineyard with another 20 that he rents and manages, all situated at an altitude of between 600 and 900 metres above sea level. This altitude ensures warm days and cool nights, while the volcanic soil is low vigour, ensuring wines of great intensity and a lovely perfume from low-yielding vines.

His consultant oenologist is Riccardo Cotarella, who has successfully managed to marry the delicate intensity of the wines from Etna with a freshness and definition that few others have achieved.

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.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Three Highly Recommended European Whites

Three Highly Recommended European Whites
Catarratto. Vintage 2019

Baglio Bianco Catarratto Terre Siciliane (IGP) 2018, 11%, €19.55 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

A few days of skin maceration gives this its amber colour. Colour is not the only result from the three or four days of skin contact, as you’ll note. The nose is rich too, apple and cinnamon in the mix. The palate also is rich and textured. It’s full of flavour and a bit spicy too and it’s dry all the way to the long finish. Highly Recommended.

Bianco is certainly a bit of a misnomer here as this is most definitely an orange wine, a cloudy deep amber in colour, unfined and unfiltered. And Le Caveau say it is a “fantastic introduction” to orange, “both from a flavour and price point of view”.

Orange wines also have a higher level of tannins, more like red wines, and indeed can match foods where previously red would have been the only choice. Some orange wines can be tough going if you’re not used to them but this one is quite easy-drinking. 

Pairings suggested by the importers are free range pork with apple sauce; a herby roast chicken; and cheeses such as Durrus. Catarratto, by the way, is Sicily’s, and Italy’s, most popular white wine grape. Baglio also produce a red from the Nero D’Avola grape. Their organic Rosso is fresh and fruity and also a delicious easy drinker.

Millet Sauvignon Blanc Côtes de Gascogne (IGP) 2019, 11.5%, €12.95, Wines Direct

Colour is a very pale straw.  The fresh vibrancy of the aromas (floral notes, pear) make an immediate impression, a good one, and that follows through onto the lively palate where citrus fruits and an invigorating acidity go all the way through to the decent finish. 

Quite a lovely wine from Armagnac country where much of the grape harvest goes to the distilleries to make the local brandy (don’t ever ever call for a Cognac around here!). Millet themselves say they are devoted to “the production of Armagnac”. A very enjoyable wine and Highly Recommended. Must try and remember this for Sauvignon Blanc Day next year.

Millet recommend serving at 9 ° C, alone as an aperitif, or with a meal. “It harmoniously accompanies starters, goat cheese, Landes asparagus, fish and shellfish.” Importers Wines Direct point in the direction of Rich Fish, Light Fish and Shellfish, Hard Cheese, Fresh Greens
Esteban Martin “Viña Canal” blanco Cariñena (DOP) 2018, 12.5%, €* Wines Direct
This blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo has a light straw colour. Pleasant, if delicate, aromas with both floral and fruity notes. Lively and fruity (tropical hints), good acidity as well and a decent finish. Excellent aperitif and should go well with fish and shellfish. Versatile and Highly Recommended.
Cariñena is a Spanish Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) for wines produced in the area of the same name which is in the province of Zaragoza (Aragón, Spain). It was awarded DO status in 1932. 

€* Bought in mixed case.

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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Lost in Muscadet Vineyard in Nantes. And a Simply Better Surprise.

Lost in Muscadet Vineyard in Nantes. 
And a Simply Better Surprise.
Lost in Nantes? Encore?

Domaine de la Fessardière  “L’Air Innocent” Muscadet Sevre et Maine (AOC) Sur Lie 2015, €18.65 Mary Pawle

Brittany Ferries opened the Cork-Roscoff route in 1978 and, for quite a few years afterwards, virtually every Cork driver visiting France got lost in Nantes. Happened to myself once and I ended up in the vineyards to the south-east of the city (not the worst of outcomes, quite recoverable). French roads have improved a lot since then and now most major cities, including Nantes, have either a rocade or a périphérique.

Like most early ferry travellers, we didn’t go too far in the first year or two, mainly to the south of Brittany around Concarneau, Guerande and Carnac. The supermarché (even the odd hyper) were the main attractions for the first (and last) few days of the hols with the male eyes concentrating on the bottom shelves and the bottles of Muscadet for less than punt! Got a lot of it then (also Gros Plant, even cheaper) and that cheap stuff put many off the fruit of the Melon de Bourgogne grape for years.

Bit by bit though we began to realise that two very important words on the bottle were Sur Lie, though only a year or two back the somm in a five star hotel in Kerry didn’t seem to know them. Glad to say that this bottle is Sur Lie (raised on lees) and is a splendid offering via Mary Pawle Wines.

It has indeed been kept on its lees for six months. Besides there is no added sulphur and the fruit has been hand-harvested.The grape variety is the normal Melon de Bourgogne and the vineyard follows organic methods. 

Mary says it is round and unctuous in the mouth and a good match with seafood or a semi-soft cheese.  In addition, the producers recommend “fish in sauce, poultry with the cream, cooked cheese like the county (Comté, I presume) or Cantal.”

The name of this round, fresh and fruity wine, “L’Air Innocent”, emphasises this closeness to nature. Colour is a very light straw, bright and healthy looking. The aromas, delicate and appealing, are of white fruit (apple). Apple flavours are somewhat stronger than the scents and there’s a touch of citrus too, also a refreshing acidity, a tingle of minerality as well, and it also has a pleasant long finish. Highly Recommended.

Principesco Pinot Grigio Terre Siciliane (IGT) 2017, 12%, €12.50 Dunnes Stores

First sip and a pleasant surprise. Yellow fruit flavours lead to a very pleasing palate. Nice bit of acidity too and all combine in a lovely finalé. The colour is a pale straw. Aromas of peach and apple hint of good things to come. A decent wine at a decent price from a surprising source as I wouldn’t have thought of Sicily as a hotbed of Pinot Grigio.

This wine has been exclusively selected for Dunnes Stores Simply Better. It is produced by Casa Fondata on the sunny island off the toe of Italy. Dunnes recommend it as a “perfect accompaniment to our Roasted Cod with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Mozzarella”. 

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.