Over the past couple of decades, climate change has prompted many Western Cape winemakers to consider new cultivars likely to thrive in increasingly hot environments. One such estate is Bosman Family Vineyards, which 10 years ago introduced Nero d’Avola – one of Italy’s most highly regarded indigenous varieties – to South Africa. Their Nero d’Avola 2019 is testament to the success of this bold venture.
I unashamedly love classic Bordeaux-style wines where cabernet sauvignon dominates the blend. So when, in the early 2000s, the Stellenbosch wine tasting club I belong to invited then up-and-coming winemaker Eben Sadie to address us, I was rather grumpy to hear his strong view that the South African climate was better suited to grape cultivars that can flourish in warmer conditions.
Since those days, two things have happened. First, Eben was proven right, given his track record with his Swartland wines that exclude cabernet sauvignon. Second, the average temperatures measured in the Western Cape have risen over the past 20 years – a phenomenon that has forced grape farmers and winemakers to rethink the varieties they want to plant and convert into wine.
One estate that agreed with Eben’s views is Bosman Family Vineyards near Wellington. At the turn of the 21st century, the Bosmans were in search of a grape that would do well in Wellington’s hot, dry climate, and took the view that the Sicilian red grape Nero d’Avola would have a bright future locally on account of how similar weather conditions here are to the variety’s traditional home in the Mediterranean.
Petrus Bosman travelled to Sicily to source the very best Nero d’Avola cuttings. Only two cuttings survived the journey back to South Africa, and these were propagated in the Bosman nursery and planted out on their Wellington farm, to eventually produce the first wine to be made from this resilient grape in South Africa.
I recently tasted the 2019 vintage of the Nero d’Avola. Despite the serious treatment in the cellar, the wine has a ruby-red colour of medium intensity. The nose is complex and extremely pleasant. It shows fresh notes of lavender, herbs and plum.
The palate is medium-bodied, with the fruit at the core and the herb notes providing extra complexity. The wine is in perfect balance as the tannins are subtle, there is ample acidity to fill the mid-palate, and the fruit is not overpowered by the alcohol.
In my view, the net result proved the point that warmer-climate grapes can indeed be elegant and fresh – and extremely rewarding to drink.
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