Two grape varieties of Greek origin dominate – Gaglioppo in red wines, Greco in white wine – though the types of wine they make can vary markedly from one place to another.
Modern Oenotria’s best-known wine is Ciro`, which grows in low hills along the Ionian coast between the ancient Greek cities of Sybaris and Kroton (Sibari and Crotone today). Local legend has it that Ciro` descended directly from Krimisa, the wine Calabrian athletes drank to celebrate victories in an early Olympiad.
Calabria, which forms the toe of the Italian boot, is a predominately mountainous region with marked variations in microclimates between the sunny coastal hills along the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas and the chilly heights of the Sila and Aspromonte massifs. Two grape varieties of Greek origin dominate, Gaglioppo in red wines, Greco in whites, though the types of wine they make can vary markedly from one place to another.
Calabria’s best-known wine is Cirò, which grows in low hills along the Ionian coast between the ancient Greek cities of Sybaris and Kroton (Sibari and Crotone today). Local legend has it that Cirò descended directly from Krimisa, the wine Calabrian athletes drank to celebrate victory in an early Olympiad.
Cirò, Calabria’s oldest and most celebrated wine, has lately taken on contemporary touches, as new methods of vine training and temperature-controlled winemaking have diminished the alcoholic strength (as well as the propensity to oxidize), making the wine rounder, fuller in fruit and fresher in the bouquet.
The classic Cirò is red, which in the reserve version can age beyond a decade from certain vintages. There is also a Rosato to drink young and a Bianco from Greco grapes that can show remarkable youthful freshness.
Melissa, an adjacent DOC zone, makes red and white wines similar to Cirò. But red wines from the same Gaglioppo grown at higher altitudes – Pollino, Donnici, and Savuto, for example – are lighter in body and color, sometimes with fresh scents and flavors reminiscent of Alpine reds. The dark Greco Nero variety is also used in certain reds of Calabria.
Recent experiments have also shown unexpected class in the ancient Magliocco variety for red wines, as well as convincing style with Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Sauvignon also show promise in Calabria’s hills.
Among the whites, the rare Greco di Bianco stands out as an exquisite but increasingly rare sweet wine. From a local variety of Greco grown near the Ionian coast at the town of Bianco, it has a rich, velvety texture and an intriguing citrus-like bouquet.
The nearly identical Greco di Gerace is a non-DOC wine that carries the ancient place name. From the same area comes Mantonico di Bianco, a Sherry-like amber wine with hints of almond and citrus in bouquet and flavor.
The Calabria wines match very well the Calabria cuisine, with its local recipes.
Greco di Bianco
San Vito di Luzzi
Sant’Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto
Val di Neto
Valle del Crati