Weekend Wines: An outstanding $12 Sicilian red perfect for pasta

Try this Sicilian red with a plate of pasta.

Nero d’Avola from Sicily has grown in popularity in recent years and now holds an important place among red-wine values from southern Italy. But quality varies, and finding those that have balance, complexity and delicious fruit is a hit-or-miss proposition.

One that stands out for both quality and price is the 2010 Sikelia Nero d’Avola made by Ceretto Guidi. Nero d’Avola, which means “black of Avola,” referring to a town in Sicily, is the island’s signature red grape and, with its characteristic dark coloring, lives up to the “nero” in the name.

Until the last decade or so it was usually blended with other grapes, but has gained prominence in recent years on its own. I tried the $12 Sikelia twice and found that it was made for hearty pasta dishes.

The first was a simple combination of spaghetti tossed with olive oil, garlic and sweet sausage, while the second was built around a classic sauce of tomato, garlic and basil. In both cases the Sikelia provided a refreshing and delightful counterpoint that easily withstood the bold flavors.

The wine, with alcohol at a modest 13 percent, is lean and focused with blackberry and cherry tastes, a good deal of spice and bright acidity that makes it a perfect companion for full-flavored foods like these pasta dishes. Its freshness stems in part from the fact that it is fermented in stainless steel and receives no barrel aging. Production is just 5,000 cases.

The wine is a collaborative effort between Cereto Guidi and a Tuscan winemaker, Fulvio Galgani. With its leanness and elegance, it shows a Tuscan sensibility as much as a Sicilian one.

This excellent, inexpensive nero d’Avola demonstrates again how it’s possible to find delicious, original wines when you look beyond the obvious choices. Sikelia, by the way, is the name that ancient Greek sailors gave to Sicily. Imported by Largo Wines, Seattle.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog,, and follow him on Twitter.