Posts Tagged Ciello Rosso

Four big, elegant (and organic) Sicilian Nero d’Avola for less than €20

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday, September 22nd, 2019

Powerful Italians: Ciello Rosso, Fabrizio Vella, Tenuta la Favola and Baglio Rosso organic Nero d’Avolas


Grape varieties are to winemakers as raw ingredients are to chefs: they may not be able to change the basic nature of the grapes, but depending on where they grow them, and what they do in the cellar, they will end up with very different wines. Nero d’Avola is an example.

It is the most widely planted red grape in Sicily. Grown on the island’s enormous hot, arid plains, it produces powerful, full-bodied wines, with plenty of alcohol and tannin. Nobody is quite sure where it came from. Some believe it is simply the Nero, or Black One, from Avola, a town on the southeastern coast; others argue that its other name, Calabrese, suggests it comes from Calabria, across the Strait of Messina, on the Italian mainland.

Either way it has been important to the Sicilian economy for centuries, producing huge quantities of uninspiring but deeply coloured wines that were often blended with lighter wines. You will rarely find it outside Sicily, which seems strange, as it is ideally suited to warm, dry climates.

Until recently all of the more ambitious wines made from Nero d’Avola belonged to the big-is-beautiful school. Beefy, dense and often aged in new oak, these were huge wines with huge structure. Done well, these go perfectly with robust red-meat dishes many of us will be eating over the winter, or with barbecued beef during the summer. My absolute favourite is Gulfi Neromaccarj (€42.95 from

Yet there are other styles of Nero d’Avola. Some use it to make very ripe, rounded appassimento-style wines with semi-dried grapes. (Try Nero Oro Appassimento, which costs €15.95 from O’Briens.) Alternatively, grown at higher altitudes, or close to the cooling effects of the sea, the same grape can produce much lighter wines with delicious pure, juicy fruits. These offer a far more digestible alternative to the bigger style, and can make for a great party wine. They also go really well with a wide variety of foods, including lighter pizza and pasta dishes, as well as medium-bodied cheeses.

Forty per cent of Italian vineyards are organic, a higher proportion than anywhere else, so all of the wines I feature today are organic. They also come in at less than €20 a bottle, and offer great value for money.

Cantine Rallo, Ciello Rosso ‘Nero d’Avola’ Terre Siciliane IGP (organic)
12.5%, €12.85-€14
Light, juicy, ripe plum, red cherry and strawberry fruits, with a subtle earthy touch. On its own or with pizza, focaccia or arancini.
From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4,; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin,; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork,; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3,; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, Co Kildare,; Corkscrew, Dublin 2,; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,; Worldwide Wines, Waterford,; Le Caveau, Kilkenny,; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin,

Rosso Organico 218, Fabrizio Vella, Terre Siciliane (Organic)
12.5%, €14.99
A very quaffable, soft, light, easy-drinking wine with mouth-watering plum fruits. Perfect on its own or with white meats – grilled chicken with spices, perhaps.
From Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,; Kellys, Dublin 3,; Deveney’s, Dundrum, Dublin 16; Crafted, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny

Nero d’Avola 2017, Tenuta la Favola Sicilia (organic and vegan)
13.5%, €19
Supple, refreshing and full of juicy, dark, ripe fruits, sprinkled with herbs. Drink solo or with tomato-based dishes, including pasta.
From Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, and Galway,;; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,; Eleven Deli, Greystones, Co Wicklow,

Cantine Rallo, Baglio Rosso ‘Nero d’Avola’ Terre Siciliane IGP Organic
13.5%, €19.55
Intense, pure damson fruits on nose and palate, with a slight spritz, and a fresh, juicy quality throughout. With cold meats or a crusty margherita pizza.
From Drinkstore, Dublin 7,; Le Caveau, Kilkenny,; Redmonds, Dublin 6,

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All-purpose red wines that will go with just about everything

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday November 4th, 2017

This week let’s take another look at what I call wet Wednesday wines; red wines, this being winter, that you don’t have to think about too much, but will cheer you up and make a midweek dinner taste that little bit better. Last Saturday I covered the multiples; today, our independent wine shops and off-licences.

The problem with independents is they are so, well, independent. Each has its own individual way of working and its own favourite wines that obviously work for its customers, too. It makes for a fascinating range of wines, usually hand-picked bottles with real character, but sadly too often not available anywhere else in the country.

Our independent wine shops have changed; while some off-licences remain resolutely traditional, many of the wine retailers now stock a much more quirky, eclectic range of wines. Quite a few of them morph into wine bars at certain times of the day or night as well.

For this week’s wines, I emailed 10 wine shops and off-licences around the country and then added in a few of my own current favourites. Most of the responses included a handful of Italian reds, a Nero d’Avola from Sicily, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or a Valpolicella. All of these tick boxes. If you ever find yourself in a restaurant not knowing what wine to pick, these are fairly reliable all-purpose reds that will cover just about everything on the menu. Every region of Italy has a local quaffing wine. In days past they were drunk instead of water, often at every meal. With modern wine-making, most taste a lot better than they did 20 years ago. If I ever opened a bistro or restaurant, all of these wines would be in the running for my house wines. They are fruity, crowd-pleasing wines that go perfectly with most dishes. Gabriel Cooney of Grapevine in Dalkey put it nicely when talking about his Poggerissi below: ‘it is a wine to drink when you can’t decide what you want: simple, approachable, great value and hits the spot every time’.

The wines below are all €12-€13, possibly more than you normally pay for your midweek wine. However, you should notice a big jump in quality compared to a bottle costing €8-€10. The winemaker is probably getting 50 per cent or more for a wine at this price.

SIYPS, which stands for sommeliers in your pockets, is a newly created online site where you can buy wines selected by a team of experienced sommeliers. Check out While on the subject of innovative wine retailers, a big shout-out for Dave Gallagher and his team in Green Man Wines in Terenure for their Best Wine Award from Georgina Campbell.


Madregale 2016, Rosso Terre di Chieti 12.5%, €11.95

Light fresh juicy cherry fruits and light tannins. This is very good everyday drinking and great value for money; a great all-purpose wine to drink by itself, or with most foods. Tomato-based pasta dishes sounds good.

Stockists: Avoca; Blackrock Cellars; Fallon & Byrne; Le Caveau; Listons; MacGuinness Wines; Green Man Wines; World Wide Wines.

Ciello Rosso Nero d’Avola 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane 12.5%, €12.95

Light and fresh with delicious dark plum fruits and a supple finish. As with the Madregale, you could drink it by itself or with all sorts Of dishes; just avoid anything too robust. Pizza?

Stockists: Le Caveau; Baggot Street Wines; The Garden Shop (Ballymaloe); Blackrock Cellars; Bradleys; The Corkscrew; Fallon & Byrne; Listons; Green Man Wines; 64 Wines; World Wide Wines.

Poggerissi Rosso 2016, Rosso di Toscana 13%, €11.95

A lovely glassful of smooth supple juicy ripe cherry fruit. This is a real steal, a wine that has been one of my favourite wines for years. Another “house wine” that will go well with most white meats and lighter red meats, too. Creamy chicken and mushroom pie.

Grapevine; Liston’s; Poppy Seed and Morton’s, Galway; Cabot & Co, Westport.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015 Le Salare, Fratelli Barba 12%, €12.95-€13.50

Another “house wine” in the Wilson household. I defy anyone to dislike this. Light refreshing toothsome pure dark plums, with subtle spice and a soft finish. Chicken or pork.

Stockists: Sheridans Cheesemongers (all shops); Lettercollum Kitchen Project; Clontarf Wines.

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