Calabria is a region in southern Italy, rich in history and traditions which has in recent years bolstered its image thanks to the effort of small boutique producers.
Viticulture in Calabria dates back to the time of the Greeks, in 700 BC. After the Roman Empire, the wine business was abandoned, until the Middle Ages when it began to flourish again. The phylloxera, in the twentieth century, changed the viticultural landscape and the region started to shift its focus to quality. Efforts were made to match grape varieties to suitable locations and improve winemaking practices, as a result the wines of today are of better quality and much more interesting to drink.
Bathed by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas, Calabria is separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The mild climate, splendid sea colours, rocky coasts alternating with sandy coasts, wild nature, intense and genuine flavours of the local cuisine as well as the testimonies to its ancient origins is what makes Calabria a unique place, to be admired both in winter and summer.
Discover the indigenous grape varieties
The area around Cosenza with its sunny conditions and large diurnal temperature range encourages the white grapes to develop their flavour and aromatic complexity while retaining their natural acidity.
In the mountainous areas of the Sila, thermal excursions are attenuated by warmer temperatures, influenced by the Sirocco and North winds. Along the coast, the Mediterranean climate influences the innermost vineyards from the Aspromonte to those of the Costa dei Gelsomini, where Greco di Bianco finds its ideal conditions.
The soil composition is what determines the quality: in the terraced vineyards with calcareous soils, we find fuller-bodied wines with intrinsic tannin structure which in turn offers conditions for medium-long bottle aging. Clayey-calcareous soils of the Ionian hills side favour Gaglioppo and the production of savoury and mineral red wines.
Calabria – the land of red wines
Calabria has around 14.000 hectares of vineyards, 9 DOC and 10 IGT appellations. The most cultivated varieties are black and represent around 75% of the production: Gaglioppo, Magliocco, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Greco Nero. The wines each express different nuances depending on the topography and soil of the site, giving wines varying levels of tannins and fruitiness. The white grape varieties grown in the region are Greco, Trebbiano Toscano, Montonico and Guernaccia.
Which is the most cultivated grape variety?
Gaglioppo is the flagship grape and its name seems to come from the dialect where gaglioppo means 'closed fist', due to the compactness of the bunch. It is believed to be the natural love child of Sangiovese and Mantonico Bianco. The best vintages have a long growing season which produces fragrant and elegant wines with finesse.
Cirò DOC produces only red wines?
In the Crotone province there is the Cirò DOC - which can be produced in the white, red or rosé versions. The red wines produce lower yields and are concentrated and most of the time age worthy. The vineyards are located on gentle slopes near the Ionian Sea close to the town with the same name. It is produced also in the Riserva and Classico styles.
The rebirth of this wine - which the ancient Greeks called 'Kremisi' - is recent history and is the result of lower yields per hectare and improved winemaking technologies. Until a few years ago Cirò DOC had a strong alcoholic component and aggressive tannins, whereas today it may offer a warm taste but with a rounder, velvety tannin structure.
Magliocco is another indigenous red grape variety, lesser known but very interesting. In the area they also produce light and ready-to-drink rosé. Moreover, vineyards that reach 800m above sea level produce elegant and fragrant white wines based on Greco Bianco and Guarnaccia.
The white Greco, may be produced with partially dried grapes in a dessert-like wine near the town of Bianco. This DOC makes it difficult to distinguish the sweet wine from the dry Greco di Bianco version, which is one of their most well-known products.
Moscato di Saracena a meditation wine
Another gem is Moscato di Saracena, a sweet wine traditionally produced from dried Moscatello and other indigenous grapes. The must (wine juice) obtained from the vinification of Malvasia, Odoacra and Guarnaccia grapes is concentrated through a boiling process which leads to a reduction of about one third of the total. This determines an increase of the residual sugar and alcohol content. After a long and slow fermentation, an amber-coloured raisin wine is produced with intense honeyed, dried figs and exotic fruit flavours.
Fruity easy drinking red wines and pleasantly refreshing and mineral whites.What are the most popular grape varieties in Calabria?
Among the black grapes Gaglioppo and Magliocco. For whites we need to mention Greco and Trebbiano.What types of food works well with wines from Calabria?
Light reds: try it with turkey or chicken salad and shrimp pasta. Full-bodied reds: pork ribs or ham with the local spicy ‘nduja’, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Whites: grilled white fish, hummus, roasted vegetables.