Log In / Join Now

What am I tasting?

Tasting Note

Posted September 26, 2013 A pleasant, wild red, with ample underbrush and game notes marking the rich plum and wild berry fruit that stays fresh through the finish.

And the answer is...


This red is marked by a wild side that's steering us toward the path less traveled, so we can begin by eliminating some of the more common, international varieties on our list.

Cabernet Sauvignon typically shows cassis, graphite and full tannins, none of which are present in our wines. Merlot is more mellow, usually with ripe plum, but it rarely displays assertive underbrush and game notes. And Pinot Nero (better known as Pinot Noir throughout the wine world) makes for light- to medium-bodied, cherry-driven reds.

Nerello Mascalese, an up-and-coming Italian variety, is also light-bodied, with red or sour cherry fruit character, and is often compared to Pinot Noir. So it's out of consideration as well.

We're left with Nero d'Avola, which makes rich, medium- to full-bodied reds that exhibit those notable wild underbrush and game notes.

This is a Nero d'Avola.


There's little to guess here once we know the grape. Nero d'Avola is grown predominantly in just one country, Italy.

This Nero d'Avola is from Italy.


Our red is fruit-forward and fresh, indicating it's a young, new release. We can also confirm this by the absence of any age-developed characteristics, such as mushroom or leather.

This Nero d'Avola is one to two years old.


Looking at our list, Bordeaux (in France), Douro (Portugal), Naoussa (Greece) and Priorat (Spain) are barely considered, and we immediately move on to our two Italian appellations: Sardinia and Sicily.

But even within Italy, Nero d'Avola is predominantly grown in only one region, the island of Sicily (listed as Sicilia on wine labels). And in fact the grape is named after the coastal town of Avola, located in the island's southeast corner.

This Nero d'Avola in from Sicily.


This is the Nero d'Avola Sicilia 2011 from Cusumano which was rated 87 points in the May 31 issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $12. For more information about the wines of Sicily and other bottlings from the southern portion of the boot look for our tasting report in our Oct. 31 issue.

—Nathan Wesley, senior editor

Wine Challenge

Test your knowledge with our fun, biweekly quiz.

: Cutting-Edge Chefs, June 22, 2018

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.