I Love Italian Wine and Food – The Liguria Region

Corniglia from the trail - Photo © Blaine Crowther
Corniglia from the trail – Photo © Blaine Crowther

An article by: Levi Reiss

If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Liguria region of northern Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.

Liguria, also known as the Italian Riviera, is located in the northwest corner of Italy. It borders France, Monaco, and has a 350 kilometer (over 200 mile) coastline on the Ligurian Sea.

The region is hilly and mountainous, but has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The Romans captured Liguria in the Second Century B. C. It was subsequently conquered by Barbarians and by the Lombards.

In area it is the third smallest Italian region with a population of about 1.6 million.

The land in Liguria tends not to be particularly fertile. Agricultural products include flowers, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables. Some claim that Liguria introduced pasta to Italy. Most of the pasta is wheat. Pesto is a regional specialty. A wide variety of seafood is available. Heavy industry is on the decline. Tourism is so important that in some areas the July and August population is ten or fifteen times that of the slow season. The area is particularly popular with retirees.

Liguria’s capital and largest city is Genoa, a city of six hundred thousand. Parts of the old city have been placed on the World Heritage list as of 2006. Among its many sights are the home in which Christopher Columbus was said to be born, and La Lanterna, the oldest working lighthouse in the world. Another special tourist destination is Cinque Terre, five tiny villages along the coast. They are a hiker’s paradise, but make sure that you are in good shape before attempting the complete route of about 13 kilometers (8 miles). This area is home to two DOC wines, Cinque Terre and Cinque Terre Sciacchetra’, neither of which is often found in North America.

Liguria devotes slightly under twelve thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 19th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 4.4 million gallons, also giving it a 19th place. About 34% of the wine production is red or rose’, leaving 66% for white. The region produces 8 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin. Almost 14% of Ligurian wine carries the DOC. Liguria is home to almost three dozen major and secondary grape varieties, somewhat more white than red varieties.

No international white grape varieties are widely grown in Liguria, whose most important white grapes are Bosco, Pigato, and Vermentino. Given its limited wine production, little Ligurian wine is exported to North America. In the unfortunate absence of any Ligurian wines, we are reviewing a Vermentino-based wine from Tuscany. If I am ever in Liguria, I promise to drink and review a few local wines.

No international red grape varieties are widely grown in Liguria. The best-known Italian red variety is Sangiovese, which is grown elsewhere including California. Other Ligurian red varieties include Rossese, Ciliegiolo, and Ormeasco, also known as Dolcetto.

Before reviewing the Ligurian-style wine and Italian cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.

Start with Torta Pasqualina; Artichoke Savory Pie. For the second course try Cappon Magro; Ligurian Seafood Caponata (you may have to order this dish in advance).

As dessert indulge yourself with Pandolce; Sweet Bread From Genoa.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at ital@mail.theworldwidewine.com.