Since my first wine class at Ballymaloe Cookery School back in 2016 I was hooked. I had liked wine for a couple of years before that but had never really thought about it. I would buy a bottle, decide if I liked it or not and buy it again accordingly. Colm McCann was a passionate teacher and although our lessons were quite short and few in number, they left a lasting impression on me, one that I knew would reappear in the future. Since the course I have been consuming wine at a pretty decent rate and the quality of the wine I’m consuming has risen considerably since David Malone opened The Wine Buff shop in Newbridge. Every Tuesday I call in for a chat and a bottle and, on his recommendation have enjoyed numerous French, Spanish and Italian wines.
Insipid Pinot Grigio
Being a big fan of Italian food, football and culture in general I have found myself attracted to Italian wines. I cook Italian style food almost everyday and so it would seem a bit odd to me to eat it with a French, Spanish or heaven forbid, a USA wine. What has struck me over the past while is the lack of knowledge about Italian wine. Chianti and Pinot Grigio are known by everybody but these are so often disappointing and many are mass-produced to the point of being characterless and insipid. To combat this, I have decided to explore the wines of Italy – from the Northern King of Barolo to the Southern sparkler Ursi and as much as possible in between.
Italy, probably more than any other country is a producer of horrendously inconsistent wine. Some of the best – particularly from the north are priced to match but as you move down through the country the possibility of finding a ridiculously good wine at a tempting price increases. Also increased is the possibility of finding a dud – a mass produced bottle of almost undrinkable vinegar that has given Italy it’s somewhat mixed reputation to date. I’m sure I will be unfortunate enough to come across some of these duds but I hope to come across some real gems too. This is the start of my journey, I am no wine expert and I hope to learn a lot along the way.
Articles on Italian wine regions, grape varieties and classifications are all on the way but for now, here’s the first wine in the series.
Nausica – Nero D’Avola 2016
For my first feature, I have decided on a Sicilian classic – Nero D’Avola. It’s name literally translates to “black of Avola” with reference to the dark coloured grapes from the town of Avola on the south-eastern coast of the Island. Although it is the most widely planted red wine grape variety in Sicily, in the past it has been used to blend with other varieties on the mainland of Italy. In the last 20 or 30 years however, it has been given a chance to shine on it’s own and shine it certainly does. This is one of my favourite grape varieties. It’s big and fruity with just enough acidity to balance the sweetness.
Type: Red Wine
Classification: IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) – Terre Sicilliane
Available from: The Wine Buff, Newbridge
Alcohol: 13% vol
Bottled by Cantine Salvalai in Northern Italy, little information is available online about this Nero D’Avola. Italian wines can be somewhat mysterious in their labelling and this one is no different! I am normally on the look out for estate bottled wines and this one could hardly claim to be that with approximately 1,300km seperating the growing region in Sicily with the Cantine in Quinzano, Lombardy. David however, has yet to steer me wrong and this is no different.
The wine is a deep ruby red colour and immediately sends out the aromas of cherry, raspberry and other red fruits. Nero D’Avola is sometimes more associated with deeper flavoured black fruits but this is a lighter than usual incarnation. The red fruits continue when tasting – it’s quite a lively wine with a nice, balanced acidity and mild, soft tannins with just a little hint of spice as the taste fades away. There is no numbing of the gums here, this is a very drinkable wine – perfect to sip on in the evening or to pair with red meat, strong cheese or well flavoured pasta dishes.
To my surprise, the wine hardly alters over the following days. Being the only one to drink wine in my house, I am sometimes pouring from the same bottle for three or four days. While some wines, particularly reds can turn nasty pretty quick, this sits relatively comfortably for three days with a stopper in. It mellows slightly but takes on none of the off tastes that can so often creep in.