Wine: Liam Campbell on Sicilian Sensations
Supple tannins are complimented by refreshing acidity. The robust fruit character is black plum and cherry in youth and fig and prune with maturity.
Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, the triangle-shaped island of Sicily (Sicilia) is within kicking distance from the toe of Italy's boot. Clusters of luminous lemons gleam against their lush green foliage forming a garland around the island's coastline.
Greek temples, Roman sacrificial altars and smoking volcanos, all add drama to the arid landscape with its mosaic of soils: fertile black volcanic lava, red loam, brown earth, pale limestone and golden sand.
Sicily's fertile soils have earned it the title of God's Kitchen and the bread basket of ancient Rome. Typically, vines are planted amid other crops of cereals, olive groves and citrus fruits, making wine production often a cottage industry where Co-ops dominate.
Local to the island, Nero d'Avola (Calabrese) has been referred to as the Shiraz of Italy, but with none of the fruit-bomb explosion of the New World.
Instead, supple tannins are complimented by refreshing acidity. The robust fruit character is black plum and cherry in youth and fig and prune with maturity. Earthy notes give a sense of place from vines planted in the mineral-rich volcanic soils near Europe's largest active volcano, Mount Etna.
1) Nero D'Avola & Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, "Cantodoro", Feudo Arancio, Sicilia 13.5pc
Perfumed ripe black fruits with polished oak spice. Intense black tarry fruits are supported by a firm grip of tannins finishing with ripe plums. Try with lamb slow cooked in red wine with black olives and caramelised onions on couscous.
€15.49 at Mitchell & Son, CHQ Building, IFSC, D1 & Glasthule, Co Dublin or online: mitchellandson.com
2) Nero D'Avola 2012, Solandia, Terre Siciliane 13pc
Fruity aromas of dusty red berries. Easy on the palate as gentle tannins allow the juicy ripe berry flavours to surface and seduce. Serve cool with turkey salad and fresh cranberries.
€10.49 nationwide: Next Door Off-Licences and Cheers Off-Licences; Cleland's, Abbeyleix; Salthill Liquor Store, Galway and O'Neill's, Carrickmacross. In Dublin: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Higgin's, Clonskeagh; Delaney's, Aungier Street and The Gate Newsagent, Lord Edward Street.
3) Nero D'Avola 2012, Il Padrino, Terre Siciliane 13.5pc
Peppery black fruit flavours and sandy textured tannins make for an easy style to enjoy. Serve with a pepperoni pizza garnished with rocket.
€10.99 at O'Brien's 32 off-licences nationwide.
4) Nero D'Avola 2011, Ca' di Ponti, Sicilia 14pc
Muted aromas don't prepare the taste buds for this intense attack of blackberry fruits. Firm tannins and mouth-watering acidity craves a meaty dish with a cheesy sauce. Made for lasagne.
€11.50 in Dublin at Next Door Off-licence, Kimmage and on-line: tindalwine.com
5) Nero D'Avola & Syrah 2007, "Benuara", Cusumano, Sicilia 14.5pc
A full-bodied wine with full-throttle spicy oak matching the ripe fruit with the added blackberry and black pepper of the Syrah. Finishing with throat-warming alcohol. Grill lamb burgers glazed with a mango chutney.
€23 at Sweeney's, Glasnevin.