Nero d’Avola is not a household name, but a glass of the good value 2008 Rapitala Campo Reale Nero d’Avola will change that.

Nero d’Avola is a red wine grape acclaimed in Avola, Sicily; the name means “black from Avola.” Until the last twenty years, nero d’Avola was used for fortifying weaker wines in northern Italy and France. Left on its own, nero d’Avola is capable of producing wine with high alcohol, strong tannins and blackish color. Modern viticulture and winemaking techniques have tamed it for the better.

The Rapitala property was purchased in 1968 by Hugues Bernard, a Frenchman with noble ancestry, and his wife Gigi Guarrasi, who hails from Palermo, Sicily. When the property was destroyed in an earthquake, the couple rebuilt it with a modern winery and replanted the hillside vineyards. Today, Rapitala is directed by their son, Laurent Bernard, and produces wines ranging from international chardonnay, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon to indigenous nero d’Avola, grillo and cataratto, as well as blends like Nura, made of nero d’Avola and pinot noir.

The 2008 Rapitala, Campo Reale, Nero d’Avola has a bright cherry color and herbal and cherry scents. Its medium body carries a tasty mix of black cherry and blackberry-like fruit flavors. Integrated tannins give the mouth a pleasant sensation of ripe fruit, and the 13.5-percent alcohol creates warmth without overwhelming your palate.

This is a very pleasant everyday wine that should be enjoyed with the versatile capanata, the eggplant, caper and olive-based Sicilian salad sometimes spiked with sweet peppers or artichokes. It can be a spread, too, depending on the whim of the chef and the occasion. Or use it as I do, as a topping to grilled tuna and salmon.

Unlike some Sicilian wineries who like to add a percentage of syrah to their nero d’Avola wine, the 2008 Rapitala is pure nero d’Avola. And the reasonable price is an undiluted pleasure, too.

The 2008 Rapitala, Campo Reale, Nero d’Avola retails for approximately $9.50

On The Grapevine:
Sicily is a beautiful mountainous island, and on the slopes of Mount Etna is the 19th century winery, Benanti. A few years ago, a visit introduced me to its wonderful wines and 100-year-old knotty vines.

In December, Michael Chazkel, a retired lawyer and Benanti importer, reacquainted me with the delicious 2000 Rovitello. Delicate as a fine Burgundy, it has a delicious mix of cinnamon, black pepper and blackberry aromas and flavors. Its long finish and wonderful composition is reminiscent of Chambolle-Musigny. It’s not easy to find but it’s worth the search.

The 2000 Rovitello retails for approximately $40.