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Sicilian sun helps red wine grape shine

Northside Staff Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Connie Mahool, Jason Wentworth, Alice peters, Mickey Ireland, Mike Yowhan, and Byron Metcalf

For many wine lovers, there comes a time when they begin to crave a new taste, a new smell, something they haven't tried before. Many of us then look to Italy, home to a plethora of local grape varieties not widely known internationally.

A good example is Sicily's Nero d'Avola (neh-roe dah-voe-la), which is rapidly acquiring a following among Italian wine enthusiasts. Named after the village Avola in southeastern Sicily, wine made from Nero d'Avola has a ripe, spicy, dark-fruit character, and tannins that are firm but silky. Many compare it to Syrah, with which it is sometimes blended.

Plantings of Nero d'Avola in Sicily were in decline as recently as the 1980's, when many producers turned to international varieties like Merlot and Chardonnay in an attempt to make "better" wines. The pendulum has swung back, however, as more producers and consumers have come to appreciate Nero d'Avola's quality.

Recently, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits conducted a blind tasting of eight Nero d'Avola wines. The Morgante 2003 Nero d'Avola was the clear-cut favorite of the group; at $15 per 750 ml bottle, it's a real winner. Full of bright fruit and hints of exotic spices, it is a well balanced wine of great character for the price. Serve it with flavorful grilled meats like beef, lamb, spiedies, or a big plate of grilled portobello mushrooms. Yum!

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 4/18/05

Northside Wine & Spirits is located at the Ithaca Shopping Plaza on Elmira Road.

Phone 607-273-7500

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