Nero d’Avola is the box wine revolution’s best selling wine (by far). This a glorious red from Sicily is now enjoying a much-deserved renaissance – and just last week, Rob went over there to meet Giovanni, the man who makes it for us.
The Nero d’Avola grape is one of the oldest indigenous varieties you’ll find on this beautiful Mediterranean island – a landmass that sits horizontal to the toe of Italy’s boot on a map – and over the past few years, Nero d’Avola’s star has really begun to shine.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Back in the 80’s local wine producers here on the island faced a predicament. You see, when grapes get to bask in the amount of sun that was shining here back then, the wine produced enjoys a much higher percentage.
Now, this posed a problem to the Sicilian winemakers who faced a choice to either a) sell and bottle it here on Sicily (remember this was the 80s when most popular wines were either dull, dry or German) or b) sell it to winemakers in Northern Italy who could mix it with their wines and increase their potency.
They chose the latter.
Meet Giovanni, the man behind our Nero d’Avola
Thanks to a budding emergence of exciting young winemakers – including our very own Giovanni (pictured) who are working hard to re-establish Sicilian wines as respectable in their own right – Nero d’Avola is enjoying a well deserved place in the spotlight. It’s been our best seller since the early days and was the first wine Waitrose asked us for when they started stocking When in Rome.
Over in Sicily Giovanni’s Nero d’Avola is enjoyed by lucky locals who pop by the winery with a refillable container and the rest is sold via independent wine stores across Italy and When in Rome in the UK.
Giovanni is young in terms of winemaker standards. But what he lacks in experience he makes up for in passion for what he does and the island he does it on. Before moving to Sant’Antonio, Giovanni worked for a large sherry corporation. Now he’s chief winemaker for Cantina Sociale Sant’Antonio, a wine co-operative that buys grapes from around 300 local small farms and turns them into our beautiful tasting Nero d’Avola using organic growing methods, which he’s passionate about. Not only do they preserve the soil, but why spend money on sprays and pesticides if nature can do the good for you, right? But like many of the winemakers we work with, Giovanni remains skeptical – in a way only the Italians know how – of all the hoops and costs involved in gaining organic certification.
Besides, there’s a far more pressing concern that keeps him awake at night: namely the future of wine co-operatives in this area.
The growers’ co-operatives are very much the backbone of the industry here in Trapani – it’s the European province with the largest percent of land used for growing grapes – and Giovanni, like many other young winemakers, are worried for their future with so many growers being bought out by huge wine colossus’.
Without doubt, it’s this devil that sits on his shoulder each day and drives him forward. Pushing him to make the best wines Sicily offers. They do say the devil makes work for idle hands. But it looks like he makes it for busy ones too.