I went to Sicily this Summer to explore the origins of the grape nero d’avola and how to best cultivate it. As mentioned before, this red wine grape was harvested in May last year on our McLaren Vale vineyard and is poised to make a smart little wine. We went over in August, with my viticulturist and partner and surprise! it was really, really hot. Our warm and dry summer climate in South Australia is almost identical to breezy SE Sicily, which sits next to North Africa in the Mediterranean. Also, another bonus, the nero at Azienda Agricola Cos Winery, our hosts in Sicily, thrives in both sandy and clay soils, just like those of our Omensetter Vineyard at Brash Higgins HQ in McLaren Vale.
All good news for a neophyte nero grower. Cos is also well known for fermenting its nero in clay amphora, an idea taken from ancient times, and recently rediscovered in Northern Italy thru the wines of Gravner. It was great to see their operation and to ask questions, especially since Brash Higgins’ nero has also spent 6 months on its skins in 200L clay pots. The difference is that our pots were made locally and from similar soil as our vineyards; Cos pots are Spanish and buried in a mixture of sand and gravel. The pots themselves are not lined, Spanish clay is apparently less porous than some others, so they keep the soil around the pots wet to minimize evaporation.
The grounds at Cos are beautiful and it is a haven amidst a poor part of Sicily. There is a full time chef named Pino cranking out delicious Sicilian food, and a great outdoor area by the pool, surrounded by vines. This is a welcome respite from the drying scirocco winds. After a day out in the vines, it was a godsend.
The people of Sicily are a varied lot, since the place has been ransacked and occupied from many different nations over time. The ongoing battle of the people reclaiming the country from the Mafia was a recurring theme, as well. More in a bit. BH