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2003 Morgante Nero d' Avola IGT Vendemmia, Sicily

morgante.gifThe more Nero d'Avola I have, the more I like it. This earthy old world varietal, native to the island of Sicily, seems to produce wines that are capable of calling one back to an earlier time and atmosphere, filtered with afternoon sunlight and redolent with the smells of fresh coffee, dirt from the fields, and someone's mother's cooking from down the cobblestone streets.

True connoisseurs of the varietal will tell you it's pretty hard to get wines that really do that, as they are made by small families in small quantities, even smaller bits of which seem to make it to the United States. However, there are a number of larger family producers that, while not meeting the criteria of miniscule production levels required by collectors, manage to produce wines that are enjoyable, even excellent, and are certainly evocative of the same feelings.

The Morgante family owns 500 acres of vineyards and almond groves that sweep along a series of hills about 45 miles from the famous valley of Agrigento, the site of Sicily's major World Heritage archaeological sites. Sitting between 1,150 and 1,800 feet above sea level, these vineyards are almost exclusively planted with native varietals which bask in the Mediterranean sun during the day, and are cooled by breezes at night.

The family has been growing Nero d'Avola for five generations, but it was only in 1994 that Antonio Morgante, encouraged by his sons, decided to make his own commercial wines. In 1997 they were joined by winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, who has helped craft the family's wines morgante.vineyards.jpg to their current level of acclaim and popularity. Every aspect of the winemaking process continues to be overseen by family members.

Morgante produces two wines, this standard Nero d' Avola and a reserve wine, named Don Antonio, which sees more aging.

Made from 100% Nero d'Avola, this wine undergoes primary fermentation in steel tanks, with no secondary fermentation, and is aged in 100% French oak before being fined with egg whites and filtered before bottling. It ages for three to four more months in the bottle before release. 15,000 cases made. The 2003 is the fifth vintage of this wine, which has been winning awards internationally since its first vintage.

Tasting Notes:
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine has a delicious nose of stewed prunes, cherries, leather and vanilla. In the mouth it is reasonably well balanced with flavors of leather black tea, cherries, and damp earth. Very light, almost imperceptible tannins carry the wine to a medium finish that has hints of pine sap.

Food Pairing:
Try pairing this wine with a simple baked polenta with Sicilian peperonata sauce and olives.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $12

This wine is readily available for purchase on the Internet.

Comments (7)

Kelley wrote:
07.21.05 at 12:00 PM

I fell in love with this wine about 6 months ago at a little restaurant in NYC that has only Southern Italian Wines. It was my first experience with Nero d'avola and since then I have been drinking as much of that grape as possible with mixed results. Often I will find a bottle that is much more expensive and not nearly as good, Morgante 2003 really rocks, good fruit and spice. A great value not often found in Italan wines.

Geoff Smith wrote:
07.21.05 at 12:45 PM

I have sold many vintages of this wine and like it a lot. I'm a bit surprised at your price, however, which seems less than normal. It's interesting to note that some traditionalists in the trade don't appreciate the Morgante, as they find it less 'typical' than the traditional style.

Terry Hughes wrote:
07.21.05 at 2:52 PM

You can get the Morgante nero d'Avola for about $13-14 at some of the Manhattan wine shops.

It's good stuff and a very good value. It hits my palate somewhere between a cabernet and a syrah.

Alder wrote:
07.21.05 at 3:43 PM


I see this advertised on the internet between $11 and $14 bucks. My experience with the traditionalists is the same as yours.

Lenn wrote:
07.22.05 at 11:32 AM

I (sadly apparently) paid $18 for it at my local wine shop for WBW #8...and I really liked it.

I've had a few Neros and as everyone has said, they are hit and miss. I can't remember the name of the first one I tasted...but it was 10 bucks and probably my favorite one!

Richard D Jones wrote:
02.25.06 at 11:54 AM

We live in Bedford England which has the largest Italian population in Europe outside Italy (about 10% of the population).

I'm a very big fan of Nero d'Avola, and think that Sicilian wines are amongst the greatest in the world. But ... I don't know much about wine (I just know what I like).

I've just bought 3 bottles of Vendemmia 100% Nero d'Avola (named Serenata) at a really cheap price ($5/ bottle, which is about as cheap as wine ever gets in the UK) at the local store - surprised to see that it is 2005 - only 4 months since it was harvested.

I wouldn't normally enjoy such a young wine, and assume that its youth may be the reason it is so cheap.

Can you tell me:

is there a good reason why it is on the market so young and so cheap - should we just drink it young and enjoy it now?

Or does this have the potential to benefit from ageing, should I go back and buy up a few cases to put in the cellar for a few years?

If so, how many years for this variety, 2005 vintage?

Alder wrote:
03.01.06 at 8:50 AM


There are a number of wines that are released relatively soon after they are harvested and made, notably those which are not aged in oak and which do not go through a secondary fermentation. One of the things that makes some wines so expensive is the cost of the barrels to age it in. So you've got yourself a relatively cheap, young wine, as you noted.

This wine will likely LAST a few years in bottle, but will be unlikely to IMPROVE much with age, beyond maybe 6 or 8 months that generally make all wines taste better after they are bottled.

My recommendation is to only buy what you're gonna drink in the next 12 months.

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