Wines of Calabria and the region's unique terroir

Wines of Calabria Region – A Practical Guide

Are you looking to explore the wines of Calabria?

There’s more that makes this Italian wine region an excellent option for wine lovers.

The Calabrian viticulture is worth exploring from the diverse terroir marked by mountains and a Mediterranean climate that yields unique flavors to the indigenous grapes like Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco.

I’ll explore this region by looking at:

Calabria location in Italy - map
Calabria Region (credit: Wikipedia )

Key Takeaways

  • The wines of Calabria are defined by indigenous grape varieties such as Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco, contributing to their unique and distinct flavor profiles.
  • Calabria boasts notable appellations like Cirò DOC and Terre di Cosenza, known for producing high-quality wines that reflect the region’s commitment to viticultural excellence.
  • Calabria’s diverse terroir, featuring mountainous terrain and a Mediterranean climate, plays a crucial role in shaping the character of its wines.

Calabria’s Wine Heritage

Calabria's mountainous terrain in a mild Mediterranean climate
Calabria’s mountainous terrain in a mild Mediterranean climate

Calabria, a charming region located in southern Italy, is steeped in a riveting wine heritage that dates back to ancient Greece. The region’s viticulture history is entwined with the ancient Greeks who introduced the art of winemaking to the Calabrians.

Interesting fact
The legacy of the Greeks is alive even today in the form of the region’s unique grape varieties and the distinct wine styles that are a testament to those historic.

However, the journey of Calabrian wine was not always smooth sailing. The region faced a devastating blow due to competition from French regions and the catastrophic phylloxera epidemic.

Despite these hurdles, the wine industry of Calabria is now undergoing a resurgence as winemakers focus on quality and innovation.

Ancient Greek Influence

The ancient Greeks left an indelible mark on Calabria’s wine heritage. As early settlers, they introduced novel grape varieties and winemaking practices, shaping the course of viticulture in the region.

The Greeks cultivated the Gaglioppo grape, a variety still extensively grown in Calabria today. Their winemaking methods, such as fermenting and aging in clay amphorae, have endured into the modern era, underscoring Calabria’s reputation for distinctive and age-old winemaking traditions.

The footprint of these ancient Greeks can still be seen in the region’s emphasis on native grapes and terroir-based winemaking, which often displays strong fruity flavors.

Modern Revival

The contemporary Calabrian wine industry is rejuvenating as winemakers reinvigorate the region’s wine heritage. They are turning the spotlight on:

  • Quality and innovation
  • Modern winemaking practices
  • Native grape varieties
  • Indigenous grapes and terroir-driven winemaking
  • Embracing new technologies while preserving respect for age-old traditions.

Despite the challenges, Calabria’s potential for winemaking is immense, owing to its picturesque uplands offering ideal conditions for vine cultivation.

Calabria’s Unique Terroir

Wines of Calabria and the region's unique terroir

Calabria’s terroir is as unique as the wines it produces. The region is characterized by a diverse terrain, featuring over 700 kilometers of coastline between the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, and a mountainous landscape resulting in fragmented land ownership and dispersed vineyard zones.

Coupled with this, the region’s Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and cold winters, allows for substantial temperature fluctuations between day and night, making it an ideal environment for cultivating a diverse range of grape varieties.

Mountainous Terrain

Calabria’s topography is mainly mountainous, leading to divided land ownership and scattered vineyard zones. This terrain significantly impacts the quality of its wines, providing a distinct microclimate that contributes to the complexity and character of the wines.

The mountainous terrain regulates water drainage and provides natural protection against pests and diseases, leading to healthier vines and higher-quality grapes.

Climate and Soil

The climate and soil of Calabria significantly influence its viticulture. The region enjoys a Mediterranean climate characterized by hot and dry summers, mild and wet winters, and abundant sunshine throughout the year.

The soil in Calabria, a blend of clay, sand, and marl, plays a crucial role in the distinctive flavor of its wines.

The proximity of the Mediterranean Sea, effectively a large peninsula, adds a touch of salinity to the terroir.

Grape Varieties of Calabria

Grapes grown

Calabria houses numerous esteemed grape varieties, each contributing a unique character to the region’s wines. The region’s signature red grape, Gaglioppo, and white grape, Greco Bianco, are central to Calabrian viticulture.

These indigenous varieties are the backbone of many acclaimed Calabrian wines, bringing a unique taste profile that is distinctly Calabrian.

Beyond these, contemporary winemakers in the region are trialing international grape varieties, merging the best elements of both to create distinctive and flavorful wines.

Gaglioppo

Gaglioppo, a red grape variety revered in Calabria, is the star ingredient of many full-bodied, tannic wines for which the region is famous. This grape lends a deep ruby hue to wines and is known for its high tannin and acidity levels. Its intense blackberry, cherry, and spice aromas add a unique dimension to the wines.

The Gaglioppo grape finds its true expression in the Cirò DOC wine, with a long-standing history and a deep connection with its land of origin.

Gaglioppo red grapes
Gaglioppo grapes are used to produce the regions’ best known wines.

Greco Bianco

The Greco Bianco grape is another celebrated variety of Calabria. This white grape variety is used to produce crisp, refreshing wines with notes of:

  • honey
  • pear
  • tropical and stone fruit
  • nutty notes
  • florals
  • apples
  • peach

Greco Bianco is predominantly utilized in fabricating Greco di Bianco, a copper-hued dessert wine that is a region’s specialty.

Greco Bianco grapes.
Greco bianco grapes.

Experimentation with International Grapes

While Calabria’s wine heritage is deeply rooted in its indigenous grape varieties, there’s an emerging trend of experimentation with international grape varieties. Winemakers in the region are exploring the potential of varieties like:

  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc

Combining Calabrian terroir with these international varieties creates a new wave of unique and flavorful wines.

Notable Calabrian Wines

Calabria presents a diverse array of wines, each possessing a unique character and flavor profile. The region’s notable wines include:

  • Cirò DOC
  • Bivongi (DOC)
  • Terre di Cosenza (DOC)
  • Lamezia (DOC)
  • Melissa (DOC)

Each of these wines is a testament to the region’s rich wine heritage and the unique terroir that shapes their character.

Cirò DOC

Cirò DOC, the most famous Calabrian wine, hails from a small region in the hills above the Ionian coast. Crafted from the indigenous Gaglioppo grapes, this full-bodied, tannic wine is known for its intense fruity flavors.

The Ciro wine is noteworthy in the region’s viticulture tradition, owing to its association with the ancient Greeks and the legends that state Greek gods consumed it during the Olympic games.

Ciro Rosso Classsico
Ciro Rosso Classsico (courtesy of Vintage Wine Picks)

Bivongi (DOC)

Bivongi (DOC) wines, produced in Reggio Calabria, offer a range of red, rosé, and white wines. Among them, white wine is known for its distinct fruity notes and well-balanced flavors, as each variety displays fruity solid flavors, which are the hallmarks of these wines.

The region’s fertile soil and ideal climate conditions contribute to the unique characteristics of these wines.

Terre di Cosenza (DOC)

Terre di Cosenza (DOC) is a promising wine region with immense potential for future growth and recognition. This DOC is renowned for producing wines likely to restore Calabrian wine’s esteemed reputation.

The wines from this region are known for their full-bodied and intense flavors, with a particular emphasis on red wines crafted from indigenous grape varieties such as Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, and Magliocco.

Lamezia (DOC)

Lamezia (DOC) wines are produced in Catanzaro and include red, rosé, and white varieties. These wines are known for their well-balanced flavors and distinct fruity notes. The region’s unique terroir, characterized by a blend of clay, sand, and marl, greatly contributes to the exclusive characteristics of these wines.

Melissa (DOC)

Melissa (DOC) wines are:

  • Produced along the Ionian coast
  • Known for their elegant, well-balanced body
  • Typically made from a blend of Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco grapes
  • Offering a unique taste profile that is distinctly Calabrian.

I’ve recently enjoyed Librandi Melissa Asylia, pictured below, which I found very an excellent choice for a fun time with friends. I detected hints of peach and possibly melon flavors in this one. It proved to be a highly adaptable white wine, perfectly complementing various sea food to share.

-Luca
2020 Librandi Melissa Asylia
2020 Librandi Melissa Asylia (photo credit: CellarTracker.com)

Sant’Anna di Isola di Capo Rizzuto (DOC)

Sant’Anna di Isola di Capo Rizzuto (DOC) is a wine crafted in Crotone that features both red and rosé varieties. These wines are known for their pronounced aromas and harmonious flavors.

The wines are created from a blend of grapes, including Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, and Magliocco, which contribute to the wines’ unique character and flavor profile.

More Great Wines of Calabria

Beyond these distinguished wines, Calabria also presents many other excellent wines worth sampling. These include:

  • Greco di Bianco (DOC)
  • Donnici (DOC)
  • Pollino (DOC)
  • San Vito di Luzzi (DOC)
  • Savuto (DOC)
  • Scavigna (DOC)
  • Verbicaro (DOC)

Each of these wines offers a unique taste profile shaped by the region’s unique terroir and the winemaker’s expertise.

Calabrian Wineries Worth Visiting

A tour of Calabria’s wine heritage wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the region’s wineries. Statti Estate and Le Moire are two wineries that offer authentic wine experiences and local gastronomy.

These wineries provide a rare chance to observe the winemaking process firsthand and taste some of the region’s best wines.

Cantina Statti

Cantina Statti, located in the heart of Calabria, is a winery that combines tradition with modernity. This estate, with its rich history, produces a variety of wines, including:

  • Gaglioppo
  • Greco Bianco
  • Mantonico
  • Magliocco
  • Nerello Cappuccio

They also produce top-notch olive oil and lemon peel.

Visitors to Statti can indulge in:

  • Wine tastings
  • Vineyard tours
  • Cooking classes
  • Wine pairing dinners

This offers a complete immersion in the culinary customs of Calabria.

Website: https://www.statti.com/

Le Moire

Le Moire is another winery that offers a unique experience to its visitors. Located in the picturesque Savuto Valley of Calabria, Le Moire is a family-run winery that produces various wines, including Greco Bianco and Cirò DOC.

Visitors can enjoy tastings and tours of the vineyards and winery, offering an authentic taste of Calabrian winemaking.

Website: https://lemoire.it/

Summary

Exploring the wines of Calabria will take you through a journey of ancient history and modern innovation. The end result is a truly unique experience.

You can start with the famous Cirò DOC, a red wine that echoes the region’s rich heritage, or delve into the crisp and refreshing Greco Bianco, a delightful white variety.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Statti Estate and Le Moire, where tradition and modernity combine perfectly, offering authentic tastings, vineyard tours, and delightful pairings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the primary indigenous grape varieties in Calabria?

Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco are prominent indigenous grape varieties in Calabria, contributing to the region’s unique and distinctive wines.

Which appellations in Calabria are noteworthy for quality wines?

Notable appellations include Cirò DOC and Terre di Cosenza, recognized for producing high-quality wines reflecting the region’s viticultural excellence.

What is the terroir like in Calabria and how does it influence the wines?

Calabria’s diverse terroir, with mountainous terrain and a Mediterranean climate, imparts depth and complexity to its wines, shaping their distinct character.

Can you recommend wineries to visit in Calabria for an authentic wine experience?

Statti Estate and Le Moire are recommended wineries, offering authentic experiences blending tradition with modernity, including tastings, vineyard tours, and pairings.

What is the modern revival of winemaking in Calabria?

Modern winemaking in Calabria is seeing a revival. Winemakers focus on quality and innovation to restore the region’s wine industry.

Luca
Luca

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