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Nero d’Avola Grapes

The Nero d’Avola is an exclusive Sicilian grape variety. Translating to the ‘Black of Avola’ because of its distinctive dark colour, it has been in Sicilian winemaking for centuries.

The dark grape has such historical importance to Sicily as its name is to the historical city of Avola in Sicily’s southeast coast.

Sicily since ancient times has been a potpourri for several cultures and people and that has contributed to its still evolving culture and of course to the grape varieties grown here.

Wine grape varieties

Nero d’Avola is thus another addition to the vast arsenal of Italian grape varieties.

Used mostly as a blending vine in much of the 20th century, its development into a full-fledged full-bodied grape happened only in past five decades, after the end of the 2nd World War.

Historically, not much is known about this variety since there are no specific records and evidences of antiquity.

However, some evidences do point out to their Greek origins.

Origins of Nero d’Avola

Nero d’Avola have definite Greek beginnings. Sicily used to be an important trading island between several cultures during ancient and medieval periods.

One of the first people to populate this island were the Greeks. Syracuse was once a major Greek colony that traded with the rising Romans in the north, Phoenicians in the south (of what is now Libya and its neighbouring desert regions), and of course in proper Greek city states like Athens and Thessalonica to the west.

DNA analysis as very well pointed out to the grape’s ancient beginnings.

Characteristically, it is pretty similar to Syrah because of the similar growing conditions and could indicate the latter’s relation to Nero d’Avola.

In the 20th century, the grape mostly remained a locally grown variety until the end of the great war in 1945 when Sicilian winemakers, though the sentiment of rebuilding the crushed Italian economy, started popularizing the grape variety in the world.

During the time when allied forces left Europe for their homelands, they already had got an experience of this from the local Sicilian wine shops.

Thanks to the efforts of Sicilian winemakers starting from the 1950s, Nero d’Avola gained much popularity in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

It is now one of the only few internationally graded and exported grapes from Sicily.

Viticulture and characteristics

The Nero d’Avola shows similar viticulture conditions as that of Syrah vines.

Sicily’s climate is very singular; mostly bright sunlight with very little rain.

Nero d’Avola is thus best suited to be grown in warm, sunlit climates with sandy soil mixed with some limestone as the case with Sicilian soil is.

Characteristically, the vine boats off a robust, upright shoot with rounded, oval like nodes approximately 5-10 centimetres apart.

The shoots are mostly three leaved with a purplish shade to them and are soft, wavy and serrate. The districts of Noto and Pachino offer the best climatic conditions and so have an abundance of vines.

Due to its quality and robust growth in warm, arid regions, the vine has found its way to regions like Australia, Turkey and Malta.

Winemakers often put the wine in oak barrels for longer maceration periods to produce stronger, dark chocolate type flavours while young wines offer fruity, dark cherry, plum like flavours depending on the preferred production type.

With higher tannin content and medium acidity, surprisingly, these can also be grown at higher altitudes where Nero d’Avola become smoother with milder tannin and alcohol content.

These are also being tried in California because of the state’s warm, arid climate.

Pairing up

Nero d’Avola has strong fruity flavours mixed with spicy tanginess.

Spicy wines require either a mild cuisine or a sweet-spicy platter to complement with it. Vegetarians could think of taking out the lentils and pairing this up.

Also goes well with stews and watery items like a soup or a boiled item.

A video posted by Twopeascooks (@twopeascooks) on

Anise, bay leaf, plum, orange rind are just some of the spices that make the wine taste even fruitier and richer than ever before.


Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

I have been online since it all began, with blogging and creating websites. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one of my passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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