Wine of the Week: Cusumano Nero D'avola 2008

After tasting a rare, white Vallone Nero d'Avola at Caffe Bello, it was time to try its more common counterpart, the red. Nero d'Avola is also known as Calabrese, and according to www.winecountry.it, it is the "most important red grape in Sicily."

With flavors of blackberry, plum, chocolate and spice, as well as deep colors, the medium to full-bodied wine produced by Nero d'Avola grapes is often compared to Australian Shiraz.

This bottle was around $12 with tax at the H-E-B on Bunker Hill, and the only selection of the varietal available there that I was able to spot. It's not nearly as represented as more widely known Italian wines like Sangiovese, Chianti and Pinot Grigio easily found on any wine shelf throughout the city, and after tasting this, I'm puzzled by its omission (or perhaps I've never looked hard enough).

I gently maneuvered the glass "cork" out of the bottle. I'd never seen one used before, and I'm curious as to whether or not it increases the life of the wine after it's opened. The color was almost a cherry red in the sunlight, with significant legs coating the glass. The aroma was buttery and the mouthfeel surprisingly thin, but not disappointing. Medium-bodied with flavors of coffee, spice, cocoa and cherry, it rounded out with dry, but soft tannins for a nice finish.

This is admittedly a broad generalization, but it seems the red version of Nero d'Avola leans toward the milder side of the Italian reds spectrum, with lighter tannins, but still maintains a dryness and acidity that perks up its pairing potential. It would make an interesting Italian sipping wine - a good alternative to the more common varieties on the grocery store shelves.

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