Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Calabria Region
The Calabria Wine Region
Main Article Contents
Calabria and wine
Calabria is a region rich in history and traditions, with a vast cultural heritage, situated across the clear waters of the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. With approximately 10,000 hectares of vineyards, Calabria is the fifteenth Italian region in acreage. Its extension of vineyards equals that of the Trento province, representing 1.62% of the national wine-growing surface. After years of inactivity, the wine sector is now restarting with new ideas on product quality, the use of modern marketing and communication tools and the promotion of the rich indigenus grapes heritage.
The wine areas of Calabria
In Calabria there are about 10,000 hectares of vineyards, in a region where less than 10% of the total surface is flat. Approximately 50% of the area is hilly, and more than 40% are mountains. The vineyards are consequently mostly on hills (50%) or mountains (42%). The total annual production of wine is about 368,000 hectoliters of which PDO wines 43% and PGI 34.6%. The production is mainly focused on red and rosé wines (75%), while white wines account for 25% of the total production.
The history of viticulture in Calabria
The ancient Greeks named Calabria as Enotria, “Land of Wine”. The first documents on viticulture in the region are dated around the year 1000 d.C., a sign that even then this activity had a major role in the Calabria economy, along with fishing and trade. In the late 1600s the viticulture reached its peak, while at the end of 1800s tha attacks of phylloxera led to the abandonment of wine-growing areas, with their complete destruction of the vineyards around the turn of the century. The reconstruction of the Calabria wine heritage in the years following World War II it was partial and slow but led gradually to the production recovery in the region. Like many other regions of southern Italy, thanks to the particularly favorable soil and climate, for many years Calabria produced color intense and high alcohol graded blending wines for both Italian and foreign producers. The situation has now changed and the tenacity of the Calabrian wine growers led the region to become famous for its quality producers and wines .
Viticulture in Calabria
Calabria has a rough and difficult territory, but that makes it very attractive from landscape point of view. Surrounded by the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas, it is characterized by narrow valleys and mountains that divide it into two and create different weather conditions between the ionic and the Tyrrhenian side.
The areas around Cosenza, further inland on the Tyrrhenian coast, are characterize by continental weather. The intense temperature ranges are particularly favorable to the cultivation of white grape varieties, whose wines are particularly fresh and fragrant. In the interior, on the mountainous areas of Sila the temperatures are usually higher, as influenced by the sirocco and by the north winds, enriching in sugars the grapes of the area around Cirò. Further south the mediterranean weather characterizes the inner areas of the Aspromonte to the vineyards of the Costa dei Gelsomini, where the historic variety Greco di Bianco finds the ideal conditions for the production of high quality wines.
From the terrace cultivated vineyards, on mainly calcareous with layers of volcanic origin soils, red wines are produced, dense and structured, with powerful tannins, particularly suitable to evolve in medium-long maturation periods. The clay and limestone formations of the hills on the Ionian coast favor the Gaglioppo grapes and the production of rosé or light-coloured red wine, salty and mineral and with good structure. The most common training system in the vineyards of Calabria cane or spur-based, but the historical cultivation as small trees still remains present in the oldest vineyards.
The grape varieties in Calabria
The most cultivated grape varieties in Calabria are black-berried, and more specifically Gaglioppo, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio and the Greco nero, representing about 80% of the total production. The white-berried varieties grown in the region are the Greco bianco, the Trebbiano Toscano, the Montonico and the Guernaccia .
The wine-production areas in Calabria
The major wine producing areas in Calabria are the Cosentino, the Lametino, the Cirotano and the Locride areas.
The Cosentino, to the north, on the border with Basilicata, is the largest production area, with vineyards located on high grounds between 500/700 meters of altitude. The appellation Terre di Cosenza DOC and its seven sub-areas, as defined by the disciplinare of 2011, gave a new impetus to the viticulture of horthern Calabria, grouping the historical DOCs and IGTs of this province and rationalizing the myriad of wine typologies of the area. Here the most popular grape variety is the Magliocco Canino, giveing a wine of intense color, powerful structure and blackberry and spices perfumes, especially in the Colline dei Crati sub-area, while presenting minor chromatic concentrations and excellent balance in the Esaro Valley (Sub-area Esaro). Elegant white wines are obtained from vineyards reaching 800m in altitude and based on the Greco bianco and Guernaccia grapes. The Moscato di Saracena is a sweet wine with roasted flavors, made with Moscatello raisin-grapes and concentrated must from Guarnaccia and Malvasia grapes.
To the south, along the Savuto river, the appellations Savuto DOC and Lamezia DOC. Alongside to the ubiquitous Magliocco canino, the Gaglioppo, the Greco nero and the Aglianico can be found in the small Scavigna DOC. Among the grapes with white berry are the Trebbiano Toscano, the Malvasia Bianca, the Chardonnay and also the Gewürztraminer.
In the Crotone province, on the Ionic coast, the Cirò DOC, with its wines made from Gaglioppo grapes. Its rebirth is the result of practicing lower yields per hectare and better production technologies. The Ciro DOC in its more modern versions maintains quite clear shades, quickly fading into orange, warm palate but with noticeable tannin. Also interesting the rosé wines from Gaglioppo, fresh, with hip and raspberry scents.
In the Reggio Calabria the Bivongi DOC, with its wines made from international and ancient indigenous varieties, including the Greco nero and Nocera, along with the Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, both giving simple and immediate wines, providign more structured interpretations that give the best after longer aging .
The Locride area extends from the Aspromonte slopes to the coast strip overlooking the Ionian Sea. This is the area of the Mantonico variety, sometimes undergoing slight withering and giving fresh and cool wines. In the municipalities of Bianco and Casignana, the famous rare and highly sought after sweet wine Greco di Bianco is made from Greco bianco grapes. The grapes wither in the sun for 10-15 days and their wine is sweet and mellow, with notes of orange blossom, bergamot, apricot, honey and sage.
The Appellations of Origin in Calabria
In Calabria there are 10 DOC and 10 IGT appellations. In the Cosenza province the areas of Pollino and Verbicaro once autonomous appellations and now grouped on in the Terre di Cosenza DOC. Further to the south, in the Crotone province, the Cirò DOC, the Savuto DOC and the Val di Neto IGT. In those areas, characterized by important red wines, stands out the already mentioned Gaglioppo indigenous variety. To the far south, in the Reggio Calabria area the Greco di Bianco DOC, a well-known dessert wine, and the Viola Costa IGT. The traditional training system for the whole region is the tree, while more modern trallis training systems are catching on. In Calabria there are 12 PDO and PGI appellations for agricultural and food products. Among these the three Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOPs stand out, the Olio essenziale di Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria DOP and among the sausages the Sopressata di Calabria DOP.
The Calabrian cuisine
Although Calabria is a narrow region between two seas, its traditional cuisine is mainly the one of land and mountain. In fact, the interior of the region is dominated by the Sila mountains and the Pollino massif. The Calabrese cuisine is simple, rustic and genuine and tied to local products.
Special mention deserves the excellent quality of the extra virgin olive oils, many of which from organic production. Other local agricultural products are the Cipolla di Tropea IGP onions, a wide variety of beans and vegetables in general and the peppers for which Calabria holds an absolute record in Italy. Important is the production of citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, mandarins and clementines, but also cedars and bergamot, the essence of which is used both by the industry and for pastry and perfumes production.
Fish food is still present in traditional cuisine, mainly from blue fish (mostly anchovies) and tuna. The most commonly used meats are those from sheep and pigs, with their traditional sausages, including the Sopressata di Calabria DOP. Also important the cheese production, both vaccines (provola, caciocavallo, fresh and salted ricotta) and from sheep milk (in particular the Pecorino Crotonese DOP, Pecorino Silano and Pecorino del Pollino and some goat cheeses). In the calabrese cuisine bread and pasta are critical, often home-prepared from local varieties of durum wheat. Home production of oil or dried vegetables to be used in winter or as appetizers is widespread Many traditional dishes date back to the ancient populations of the region, like the Greeks and the Albanians and many are the recipes used during religious celebrations following the Orthodox rite.
The Wine Appellations of the Calabria Region