Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Wines of Calabria

The Wines of Calabria

Calabria is the home of the Gaglioppo grape, otherwise known as Montonico Nero. The deep, dark, tannin rich, full-bodied red wines produced from this variety are much loved throughout the region, but in terms of quality form the basis of most DOC wines in Calabria, either as single variatel wines or often blended. As a wine region Calabria has some 71,630 acres of vine planted, around a quarter of the total vineyards of Germany, but despite all this Calabria does not play a significant role in the global wine market.
There are both social and historical reason for  this. During the 1960's  the population of Calabria depleted due to the mass exodus of Italian workers, this caused the regions  general economic development to falter and Calabrian wine producers failed to keep up with the increases in technique, technology and quality that was seen in other Italian wine regions.
This doesn't mean that Calabrias conditions are not suitable for quality wine production, in ancient times the wines of Calabria were very highly praised and the region itself became known as Oinetria (land of wine) by the Ancient Greeks and latterly Enotria (land of wine) by the Romans. The Calabrian climate can produce difficult conditions for it's wine growers, 90% of the region is mountainous terrain where vineyards are often perched high up in order to protect the vines from the danger of frost in winter and spring.
Ciro, Pollino, Savuto and Greco di Bianco are the only labels which are reasonably well known outside the region, but these wines are mostly consumed in Italy and rarely seen on the international market. Calabria also has a handful of other DOC wines, such as Lamezia, Saint' Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto and Mellisa which are regionally not that well known. Unfortunately really good wine is rarely made in calabria and any good quality wines are from individual producers rather than larger cooperative groups.
Lets take a look at Calabria's wines -
Whether the Ciro wine is a direct descendant of the Cremissa, the prestigious wine of ancient Greece, which were presented to the winners of the Olympic games is subject of much discussion. But one thing is for certain, this dry red wine, made from the Gaglioppo grape is grown on the eastern slopes of the Sila Massif is probably one of Calabria's best known wines. A small number of producers are now producing top quality, modern, smooth and robust Ciro wines, opposed to the rather harsh, acidic wines that have unfortunately become the norm. The best examples of Ciro wines are dark red, deep and full-flavoured, often with great ageing potential.
The Gaglioppo grapes are used to produce this dry red wine are grown on the southern slopes of the Pollino mountains. The grapes are pressed and the wine marketed almost exclusively by the regions main growers cooperative. The swing in temperature between the hot summer days and cool nights is what gives Pollino wines their distinctive bouquet and character.

Of all of Calabria's DOC wines, it is probably not the successful Ciro but the virtually unknown Savuto with the greatest potential for quality wine production. The modern climate enjoyed by the higher vineyards produces fine, expensive wines particularly when the Gaglioppo grape is blended with other grape varieties such as Sangiovese. Alas, there are only one or two producers from this area worthy of note.
Greco di Bianco

Calabria's choicest dessert wine comes from the extreme tip of Italy, from the town of Bianco. This is a full-bodied, deep amber-coloured wine with a delightfully fruity flavour and distinctive bouquet, which is made from the semidried Greco grapes.



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