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Morgante Don Antionio Nero dAvola 2001
In 1997, the family hired Riccardo Cotarella as their winemaker. Cotarella, widely recognized for his work crafting compelling wines from Italy's native varietals, shares the Morgante passion for producing great red wines from Nero d'Avola. In Sicily, Nero d'Avola is indisputably the red grape for wines of excellence. And it is the vine that the Morgante family has always cultivated. All aspects of production from vineyard to cellar are rigorously controlled by every member of the family, each one dedicated to making wines of the highest possible quality.
Named “Oenotria” by the ancient Greeks for its abundance of grapevines, Italy has always had a culture that is virtually inextricable from wine. Wine grapes are grown just about everywhere throughout the country—a long and narrow boot-shaped peninsula extending into the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. The defining geographical feature of the country is the Apennine Mountain range, extending from Liguria in the north to Calabria in the south. The island of Sicily nearly grazes the toe of Italy’s boot, while Sardinia lies to the country’s west. Climate varies significantly throughout the country, with temperature being somewhat more dependent on elevation than latitude, though it is safe to generalize that the south is warmer. Much of the highest quality viticulture takes place on gently rolling, picturesque hillsides.
Italy boasts more indigenous varieties than any other country—between 500 and 800, depending on whom you ask—and most wine production relies upon these native grapes. In some regions, international varieties have worked their way in, but their use is declining in popularity, especially as younger growers begun to take interest in rediscovering forgotten local specialties. Sangiovese is the most widely planted variety in the country, reaching its greatest potential in parts of Tuscany. Nebbiolo is the prized grape of Piedmont in the northwest, producing singular, complex and age-worthy wines. Other important varieties include Montepulciano, Trebbiano, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and of course, Pinot Grigio.
Opulent with bold fruit and robust tannins, Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s most widely planted red grape, though the variety's other name, Calabrese, suggests origins from the mainland region of Calabria. Popular throughout Sicily and prized for its body, color and deep cherry fruit, Nero d’Avola performs well both as a single varietal bottling and in blends. It loves hot, arid climates and Sicily's old vines are aptly head-trained close to the ground, making them resistant to strong winds. A few pioneering producers in California as well as Australia farm Nero d’Avola in the same way.
In the Glass
A couple of styles of Nero d’Avola are possible. The first is typically a powerful, opulent, dark fruit driven style with notes of coffee or cocoa from aging in wood. A second style offers up a snappier version with red cherry fruit and herbal notes, having seen little to no oak during aging.
Nero d’Avola’s black fruit and spicy flavors are perfect with rich flavors like grilled meat or stews, but can also be a great compliment to burgers, pizza or pasta.
If you love big, bold wines like Napa Cabernet and Châteauneuf-du-Pape but want to stick to a budget, look no further than Nero d’Avola for a worthy substitute. Even the best examples often run under $20.