Rare Grapes: Calabria

Today’s post is about Calabria and its many ancient grape varieties including Magliocco – not to be confused with Gaglioppo.

Calabria is one of those Italian wine regions that still offers many good value wines. One reason for this is that Calabria did a rather poor job at marketing its wines and so they are still fairly unknown in- and outside of Italy. This is a pity because Calabria is home to dozens of mostly red, autochthonous grape varieties. I know that some of you are members or want to become members of the Wine Century Club. Calabria is the perfect region if you are looking for a few more varieties to add to your list.

800px-Map_of_region_of_Calabria,_Italy,_with_provinces-it.svg

Calabrian wine making has been influenced by different cultures over the centuries but most notably has been the Greek influence and in fact Calabrian wine was popular throughout Europe for centuries but then lost its popularity to the increasing competition. With less sales, a good number of Calabrian wineries stopped producing wine and instead began shipping their grapes to Northern Italy and France where the grapes were used as blending partners or used for the production of Vermouth. Even more wineries though closed and instead began growing olive trees and citrus trees – a successful business model and so the farmers so no reason to go back to producing wine.

A few continued making wine but the availability of Calabrian wine is no where close to where it used to be. Calabrian wine is nowhere where it used to be and so it is no surprise that the wine region has no DOCG titles.

Greco Nero is another one of those grapes that you should add to your Wine Century Club list. Greco Nero is a relative of Greco Bianco (commonly known as Greco) and its primarily function is to serve as blending partner. Greco Nero is permitted in six out of Calabrias twelve DOC titles. Greco Nero is also planted in Argentina.

Magliocco used to be the region’s most widely planted red variety but in present-day it is only cultivated on 1.500 hectares. It looks similar to Gaglioppo and it might even be related to it (there is still debate about this) and it is characterized by flavors of red berries. Varietal wines are often produced with Magliocco but the grape can also be found in blends like the recently established Terre di Cosenza DOC.

Gaglioppo might be a grape you have already heard of it.  Smooth varietal wines wines are produced from Gaglioppo. It is considered to be the most important red Calabrian variety. It is sometimes blended with Greco Nero and other varieties.

Nerello Capuccio is actually not an autochthonous Calabrian variety – it originated on Sicily, near Mount Etna. This tannic, dark-skinned variety is enjoying huge popularity in Calabria. Nerello Capuccio is blended with Nocera or with Gaglioppo in DOCs like Sant’ Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto DOC.

Nerello Calabrese is said to be a clone of two Sicilian varieties: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio. It is highly tannic and gives depth to lighter varieties. It is almost always found in blends.

Nero di Calabria is the Calabrian name for local Nero d’Avola clones.

What about international varieties? Calabrian winemakers prefer to grown their local grape varieties but Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are also found in Calabria.

Let’s take a closer look at a varietal Magliocco wine. On multiple occasions I’ve tasted the wines from Malaspina – for the first time I did so some years ago on VinItaly. VinItaly is a great place to discover wines from regions you are less familiar. Back then I knew little about Calabrian wines and so the whole journey was even more exciting.2008 Malaspina -Patros Pietro -Calabria IGT

2008 Malaspina – Patros Pietro – Calabria IGT

Malaspina is located on the Calabrian Coast near the town Reggio Calabria. Patros Pietro is one of eight wines that Malaspina produces. According to the technical sheet, it is a varietal Magliocco even though I thought it was a blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s been roughly two years since I bought the wine so my memory is probably wrong and I trust the technical sheet.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel vats and aged in French oak for a little less than a year. Calabria IGT is the wine’s appellation.

14% was the label-indicated ABV. The bottle was opened roughly two hours prior to drinking it.

Deep ruby red color in the glass with violet hues. Intense nose with a touch of vanilla, some raspberries, blackberries and blackcurrant. Flavorful on the palate with pleasing, mellow tannins. Patros Pietro was dry, warm and well-structured. Medium bodied with good balance between acidity and alcohol. Lingering aftertaste.

3.5 / 5 stars      

Parting Words

Malaspina’s Patros Pietro is one of the wines I’d recommend if you want to try a Magliocco. The Masino, a varietal Nero di Calabria, from iGreco is another Calabrian wine that I can highly recommend.

Have you tried any wines from Calabria before? How did you like them? Let me know in the comment section below.

P.S.: The weekly wine quiz is posponted by day to Thursday. Cheers!

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8 comments on “Rare Grapes: Calabria”

  1. talkavino Reply

    I had before Librandi Efeso Bianco IGT 2005, Calabria, Italy made out of the grape called Montonico, and I also had a wine made from Magliocco ( also from Librandi). No particular memories though – it was a while back.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      I haven’t had any wines from Librandi yet but I hear some good things about them. Will definitely try to remember them when I visit VinItaly or when I’m in the area.
      Cheers!

  2. Suzanne Reply

    I actually do remember having a Calabrian wine when I lived in Italy but I cannot remember too much about it. I think I will have to try one again now. Very interesting post Julian.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Calabria is not that well-known for its wines so I wouldn’t blame you for not having tried any Calabrian wines. But if you see some in a store then maybe give them a try and see if you like them.

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