How Duca Enrico Made Nero d’Avola the Marquee Variety of Sicily

Duca di Salaparuta is one of Sicily’s most renowned wine companies. With three estates on the island, their terroir-expressive wines capture the essence of this exciting and dynamic wine region. Innovation also drives their winemaking, and no wine better represents this philosophy than Duca Enrico from the Suor Marchesa estate. As the first varietal bottling of Nero d’Avola in all of Sicily, it is a wine that influenced the grape’s reputation as Sicily’s signature red variety.

Suor Marchesa is a jewel of an estate in Riesi, which is in the center of the island. Numerous factors come together to form ideal growing conditions for the signature Nero d’Avola. The 313-acre vineyard is located on a south-facing hillside, with allows for brilliant, grape-ripening sunshine. At this slight elevation, vines also benefit from cooling winds, which counterbalance the sun’s heat and allow vibrant acidity to develop. Summers are hot while short winters remain mild. The limestone soils contribute to the wine’s bright acidity while also lending notes of minerality. In total, it is a dream site for the cultivation of vibrant Nero d’Avola.

In 1984, revered Italian winemaker Franco Giacosa created the first 100-percent varietal bottling of Nero d’Avola. He believed the grape could produce wine on par with other noble Italian varieties and at the same time create a new identity for Sicilian wines. With its intense ruby color, complex flavors and aromas, and velvety tannins, the wine proved to be a revelation. Other winemakers, now attuned to the potential of this native variety, also began paying special attention to Nero d’Avola, and a winemaking renaissance took place.

Duca Enrico is fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 18 months in both new and used French oak barriques. Notes of red berries and sour cherries immediately jump out of the glass, and the time spent in barrel gives the wine hints of vanilla and spice as well as polished tannins. It is a wine that pairs well with braised beef and game, as well as mature cheeses. The name is an homage to Duca (Duke) Enrico Alliata di Salaparuta. Considered a leader in Italian winemaking, he was well-regarded for his visionary thinking and original approaches to making wine.

Almost 40 years later from the first harvest, Duca Enrico continues to be one of Sicily’s most iconic wines, and the spirit of innovation that drove its creation continues today. Zoning research drives many of the viticultural decisions for Duca di Salaparuta. This careful exploration of terroir influences everything from which varieties are planted to how they are cultivated, as even just a few feet of distance can yield dramatically different results in wine styles. This research also considers the biodiversity of the land and ensures the vineyard does not disrupt the delicate balance of nature.

In 2015, Duca di Salaparuta began more complex zoning experiments with several goals in mind. They are now looking at the chemical composition of grapes as they mature, as well as how grapes mature over different vintages. They also compare how various techniques affect how a vineyard evolves over time, and ultimately aim to predict when grapes reach peak ripeness and home in on precise picking times.

To learn more about Duca di Salaparuta and Duca Enrico, the iconic wine of Sicily, click here.

Published on December 15, 2022