Moving into the toe of Italy’s “boot,” we reach the Italian wine region of Calabria. Except for Sicily and Sardinia, both water-bound islands, Calabria has more border area surrounded by water than any other region. She is also extremely mountainous and hot, which could result in thick, jammy, unappealing red wines. Fortunately, local vintners take advantage of the cooler terroirs higher up in the mountains to produce wines from Calabria that are singularly Calabrian: Gaglioppo and Greco di Bianco.
Because Calabria was settled by Greeks who imported many wines to the area, people don’t know which of today’s Italian wines are native Greek or native Italian. Calabria’s proximity to Greece naturally endowed her with quality wines for their day. According to many sources, Calabrian wines were used to celebrate at the Olympics as many as 3,000 years ago.
Unfortunately, WWII wreaked havoc on Calabria as wine groves were decimated and the population scattered. Since then, Calabria has not enjoyed a glowing wine reputation. Gaglioppo and Greco di Bianco may be changing that.
Wines from Calabria: Gaglioppo
Gaglioppo’s thick skin protects it from Calabria’s heat, yet without imparting ultra-high levels of tannins. Being a close relative to Sangiovese, tasting notes include violets, “spicy raspberry fruit and a kind of smoky meatiness.”
Gaglioppo pairs well with hearty fish stews, thick swordfish, or any highly flavored and textured vegetables or meats.
Wines from Calabria: Greco di Bianco
Greco di Bianco is Calabria’s most famous sweet dessert wine made from the Greco Bianco grapes, which are grown near the popular seaside vacation resort of Bianco. Greco di Bianco has a widely recognized amber honey color and softly concentrated flavors, partly due to the sub-tropical climate and calcium-clay soil. Because this is not an overly syrupy sweet wine, Greco di Bianco can accompany a light summer salad as easily as gelato. With spice and orange notes, it is a multi-faceted dulce wine, and is helping re-establish Calabria’s wine reputation.
If you’ve tried Gaglioppo or Greco di Bianco, please share your notes with us here.