Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Liguria Region
The Liguria Wine Region
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The Liguria wine region
Sea and mountains have a very important influence on vine growing and wine production in Liguria. The vineyards are exposed to the breeze and often grown on steep cliffs that reach the sea level, whose wines have a personal and unique “salinity”, hardly present in wines produced elsewhere. The terraces and steep slopes are often deprived of access roads, as in the “Cinque Terre” making the Ligurian viticulture kind of “heroic”. The harvest is carried out strictly by hand and the transport of grapes by shoulder, not by choice but by necessity imposed by the conformation of the territory. The small amount of wine made from it are unique in the Italian wine scene.
The history of viticulture in Liguria
The first evidence of the cultivation of the vine in Liguria go back to Roman times, while the harshness of the territory had prevented the development in previous eras. The Ligurian wines are mentioned by Pliny the Elder, although still the first crops are probably due tothe work of the Etruscans. In fact the first evidence relate to the Riviera di Ponente, in the present province of La Spezia and the Cinque Terre wine area. The commercial success of Genoa and its Maritime Republic, gave a considerable boost also to the viticulture and the production of wine. Contacts with different peoples and cultures have also certainly contributed to enriching the region from the ampelographic point of view. In 1500 the grapes varieties of the Italian Riviera were recognized by their quality and to that period date the first references to the vine Albarola. The first reports of grape varieties and wines produced in Liguria date back to early years 1800, with referencest to both the Vermentino and Albarola (in Genoa known as Bianchetta Genovese) varieties. Even today the environmental conditions of the area and do not allow extensive cultivation and for that reason in Liguria the wineries are mostly small sized and wine productions consequently limited.
The grape varieties in Liguria
The Ligurian hinterland consists largely of mountainous areas, therefore the wine production in Liguria is concentrated along the coastal strip and only for a small part, where possible, in the internal areas of the region. The most common varieties are white grapes, particularly in Central and Eastern Liguria, while the production of varieties with black berry is concentrated in the western part of the region. The white grape most important of Liguria is Vermentino, while the most imortant one with black berry is Rossese, a variety resembling the Nebbiolo for its low content of coloring substances. Other white grapes grown in Liguria are the Pigato, Bosco and Albarola, while other with black berry are the the Ormeasco (local neme for Dolcetto) and Barbera. The Ciliegiolo is mre diffused in central and eastern areas of Liguria .
The wine producing areas in Liguria
Starting from the east, the Riviera di Levante, the first wine area is the Colli di Luni DOC, an area that extends up to the province of Massa Carrara in Tuscany. The most common white grape white is here Vermentino, used both in for varietal wines and for the production of Colli di Luni Bianco DOC, together with Trebbiano Toscano and other white grapes. The Colli di Luni red wine is produced with Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Ciliegiolo, Pollera Nera and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Cinque Terre area is named after the five villages overlooking the Ligurian Sea in the eastern region, in the province of La Spezia. The landscape of the Cinque Terre is among the most striking to be found in Italy, with vineyards planted on steep slopes and on terraces sloping down to the sea. The Cinque Terre wines are produced with the grapes of Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino varieties, from which dry white wines are made and the rare raisin wine Sciacchetrà, produced with overripe grapes left to dry in ventilated rooms.
Farther west, the areas of Val Polcevera and Golfo del Tigullio DOC, standing for wines produced with Bianchetta Genovese (local name for Albarola) grapes.
To the west, the Riviera di Ponente is characterized by the production of red wines, with grapes of Rossese, Ormeasco (Dolcetto) and Ciliegiolo. The Rossese is the absolute star of the Dolceacqua DOC wines. Rossese gives fruity red wines with slightly aggressive tannins, characterized by a light color, similar that of wines from Nebbiolo. The Ormeasco grape is the star of the Pornassio DOC. With the same grapes the Ormeasco Sciac-trà is also made, a rosé wine not to be confused with the Sciacchetrà from the Cinque Terre. The Vermentino and Pigato are genetically similar varieties and characterize the white wines of the Riviera di Ponente DOC, particularly those from the areas between the cities of Savona and Imperia .
The regional cuisine of Liguria
The Ligurian cuisine has an unbreakable bond with the sea, as evidenced by the numerous recipes dedicated to fish food. Among soups and pasta dishes the broth of rock fishes, the whitebait stew, the ravioli with fish and a mussel soup with seafood. Among the mai courses, the Cappon magro, a salad of fish, seafood and shellfish combined with vegetables, the whitebait omelette, the sgombretti with peas sauce, the cod fish, the buridda (fish stewed with peas). The whitebait, caught in Liguria from December 1 to 30 April, are the smallest sizes of some species of marine fish, especially sardines and anchovies. They are long from 3 to 10 mm and present themselves as a whitish mass.
The meat recipes
Among the soups the most famous are the ones with vegetables and herbs: the Genovese minestrone, is soft and fragrant, the mesciua is a mixture of legumes and the sbira is a tripe stew, served with broth. The typical pasta varieties of Liguria, like trenette and trofie are mostly served with pesto, a sauce made of fragrant Ligurian basil, famous throughout the world, or walnut sauce, or meat tocco (sauce), or mushrooms tocco, or green sauce. Among the main courses, missed the Cima genovese, a sort of wrap from veal meat with a vegetables, pine nuts and cheese filling, served with side dishes such as stuffed lettuces, the omelette with artichokes and mushrooms or the one with herbs, the fried scorzonera (wild grass) and fried zucchini flowers stuffed with potatoes.
Pasta and flour are the basis for many typical dishes of the Italian cuisine: the porridge chickpea, thin and crisp, with a golden surface, added of rosemary, onions and sausage, is a dish rich in calories consumed preferably in autumn.The focaccia is a classic Ligurian bread specialty, added with ingredients such as onions and olives and many others, creating numerous variants. The best known of them are the Sardenaira, with tomato, olives and anchovies and Recco focaccia with fresh cheese.
Oil and herbs
The presence of the olive tree in Liguria dates back to 3000bC. The Riviera Ligure DOP olive oil is distinguished by its fruity and delicate taste of ripe olive, almost not bitter at all, with scents of almond and pine nuts. It is ideal for preparing mayonnaise and simple fish recipes. Typical of the Ligurian cuisine are the fragrant herbs, such as basil, thyme, the marjoram, rosemary, sage and borage, along with other wild herbs all of them giving each dish a touch of originality.
The city of Torriglia is famous for the canestrelli (pastry cookies), Rapallo for the gobeletti (dough pastry cakes stuffed with fruit jam), Sassello for the amaretti with paste of almonds and Genova for the Lagaccio cookies, named by a district of the town. The pandolce is the Genoese version of the panettone, prepared by hand, more compact and less leavened that the one from Milano, and very rich in raisins and candied fruit. The Chinotto a mutation of bitter orange, whose culture is rooted in Liguria, mostly in Savona and in the area between Varazze and Finale Ligure and in the valleys behind, sincemore than three hundred years. Its fruits have orange-yellow skin and white flesh, they are big as apricots. They are used to prepare are syrup, flavors and elixirs, liqueurs, jams and chutneys.
The Wine Appellations of the Liguria Region