Easy Summer Italian Reds: A Trilogy – Part Three.
We return, once again, to Sicily for the final part of this series focusing on lighter, easy red wines that are perfect for warm-weather drinking—something Italy is particularly good at making. We covered a Frappato in Part One, and looked at a Montepulciano in Part Two. Had this been a quadrilogy, I would have made room for a Lambrusco review, but, alas, we conclude with a Nero d’Avola (neh-ro-DAH-vo-lah), arguably the noblest—and also quite versatile—grape of the southern Italian winegrowing region and THE grape of Sicily. (Some might argue Aglianico is the noblest of them all in the south, but that dialectic is reserved for another time.)
The aforementioned grape varieties have been around in Italy for centuries—mind you, centuries—but in these contemporary times and in the age of foodism, and with the re-introduction of hedonism in our society to a level probably not seen since the orgiastic Roman era, the wines made from these grapes and, in particular, the areas from which they come, have, as of late, been re-introduced to our wine collective consciousness. There’s a new hipster-dom to these exotic Italian varieties, and Nero has got enough of a cool factor that it’s easy to picture Anthony Bourdain sipping on a glass of it somewhere in parts unknown but also economical enough for just the regular non-hipster to enjoy on an everyday basis.
The Sicilian winery COS has gained a cult following, and their Nero di Lupo is as cult as an everyday, red table wine gets. It’s a brilliant wine, and it’s pretty underground at the moment—like Reservoir Dogs was underground before Tarantino followed up with Pulp Fiction—so it won’t be for much longer. The 2014 vintage release has got so much personality, so much liveliness for a red that clocks in at only 12.5% ABV—really, it’s rather extraordinary and incomparable. I friggin’ love this wine, like I love the movies of Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini and all the other great Italian directors. Why do I mention these artists?—because there’s something intrinsically and quintessentially Italian about their work, just as there is to this great wine. The immediate and delicious rush of juicy acidity when the wine hits your tongue is beautiful and tantalizing—fresh and racy fruit flavors of young plum, mangosteen and baked cranberry—finishing with a hint of black olive and licorice. It’s a wine that can accommodate so many moods, from sunny lightheartedness to anguished loneliness to unhinged sexuality. It’s versatile. Summertime means different things to different people. A lot of things can happen in summer. Have an easy red, and let it loose. –J.M.