2018 Poggio Anima “Asmodeus” Nero d’Avola
Blend: 100% Nero d’Avola
From: Sicily, Italy
Poggio Anima is a joint venture between one of Tuscany's rising stars, Riccardo Campinoti of Le Ragnaie in Montalcino and his U.S.A. importer Ronnie Sanders of Vine Street Imports. The idea is straightforward: to source great vineyards from existing relationships and produce a real wine that conveys a place and a grape. These wines are not bulk wines or leftover juice from a winery; instead, they are the result of long-standing relationships with reputable and respected growers throughout Italy.
2017 marks the fifth vintage from this vineyard. The vineyard is located in central Sicily, in the province of Caltanissetta, at about 1,600 feet above sea level. The altitude, together with the distance from the sea ensures great condition for ripening the Nero d'Avola. The vines are planted south facing following the vertical trellis system on sandy and clay rich soil using guyot pruning. Cool winters and a dry spring led to a desert-like summer. It seemed to have rained once in spring and then once again in early October. The 45th largest island in the world has never seen such fiery, relentless heat, with summer temperatures reached as high as 120 °F! Thankfully much of this was confined further inland and east of the vineyards. Harvest commenced nearly three weeks earlier than 2016 with yields down nearly 40% from 2016.
After a much needed few hours in a refrigerated space, the grapes are destemmed and cold soaked on the skins for 12-13 days. A gentle pressing to stainless steel tank where they were vinified. The wine then spends 3 months in used French and American oak barrels, which gives a little more structure. It finishes back in-tank to integrate. Of all of the varietals of Italy, Nero d’Avola is as lustful and pleasurable as it gets. Rich, peppery and opulent, it has many of the same characteristics as Syrah.
Nero d'Avola (also known as Calabrese) is the most important and widely planted red wine grape variety in Sicily. Vast volumes of Nero d'Avola are produced on the island every year, and have been for centuries. The dark-skinned grape is of great historical importance to Sicily and takes its present-day name from the town of Avola on the island's southeast coast. The area was a hotbed of trade and population movement during the Middle Ages and Nero d'Avola was frequently used to add color and body to lesser wines in mainland Italy.
Translated, Nero d'Avola means "Black of Avola", a reference to the grape's distinctive dark colouring, but its exact origins are the subject of debate. The region of Calabria can lay claim to the variety via its synonym Calabrese (meaning "of Calabria"), though this term may be a derivation of Calaurisi, an ancient name for someone from Avola.
For most of the 20th Century, Nero d'Avola was used as a blending grape and the name very rarely appeared on wine labels. By the turn of the 21st Century, however, the grape's fortunes had changed considerably, and it is now common to find Nero d'Avola produced as a varietal wine as well. It is often compared to Syrah because it likes similar growing conditions (Sicily has a hot Mediterranean climate) and exhibits many similar characteristics.
Depending on production methods, Nero d'Avola can be made into dense and dark wine that is stored in oak barrels and suitable for aging, or young and fresh wines. Younger wines show plum and juicy, red-fruit flavors, while more complex examples offer chocolate and dark raspberry flavors. Nero d'Avola typically has high tannins, medium acid and a strong body. However, it can also be very smooth if grown at higher elevations where cooler temperatures restrict the alcohol levels. It thrives on the eastern part of Sicily and is being trialed in Australia and California. Because of its generous color, Nero d'Avola is sometimes produced as rosé wine.
Taste: Dark garnet. Notes of ripe plums, leather, garrigue and pepper on the nose, with ripe black cherry and a touch of candied berry on the palate. Finishes with fruit sweetness and a licorice note with soft gripping tannins to hold it all together.
Pairing: Chicken salad with pomegranate, pine nuts and raisins; caramelized barbecued pork patties; charcoal-grilled rump steak, sweet n sour eggplant stir-fry, saag paneer, or even vegetable korma.
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