Caleo Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane 2015

Fooling around with minority grapes like nero d’avola isn’t just great fun, it helps us understand the ways in which various elements of wine can fit together.

For instance, this Sicilian glass is on the upper end of the scale when it comes to alcohol, acids and tannins, as well as having a notable fruit character, which would lead us to think that it has everything. Right? Can a wine have big fruit character as well as being dry?

The mistake a lot of us make is to substitute fruit for perceived sweetness. That modifier – perceived – is important because sweetness is both grape-dependent as well as part of the alcohol and acid structure. I’ve been drinking zinfandels lately, and they appear sweeter in part because of their low acid and low tannin nature.

The first thought that comes to mind when inhaling this wine was furniture wax, which conjurs comforting memories for me, so it’s a good thing.  That might be more accurately described as the smell that comes from an old leather sofa behind which someone has dropped tobacco, which is a much more wine-y descriptor. Leather and sweet tobacco are recognized elements of nero. All that’s very civilized. Licorice, too.

Fruit? Yes. But there’s alcohol and delicious warmth. Vanilla. Smoke. Dried herbs. And look-ah here! Dryness and mild but distinct tannins. It’s easy to go too far with this kind of thinking, but one’s imagination goes quickly to Sicily in summer, all Mediterranean dryness, grilled meats and long comfortable nights.

Brilliant. Take me there. In the meantime, this glass will be a delicious second prize.

$8.99. Srsly?