Greco di Bianco, ancestral wine

Everyone tasted, once in a lifetime, at least, the liqueur wine, and sweet, which passes under the popular name of passito or malvasia wine.
Even Alexander the Great, a great drinker of raisin wine, seems to have also died from the effects of a solemn hangover (of raisin wine), during a last banquet with his generals in 323 B.C.; further, starting with his death begins the famous Hellenistic age and the historical connubbio between Greek and Roman culture.

It is as saying that passito opens a new era in human culture.

Perfect with cheese

CALABRIAN PASSITO WINE: GRECO DI BIANCO

The grape of passito wines are the so called Mediterranean Malvasias. These grapes are present in different countries and, there, each is always located many kilometers apart from the other. They are unique and rare, each with its own peculiarities. They have an enormous evocative power, and are linked to myths and legends that span a time span of over three thousand years of human history.

All the Mediterranean Malvasias accompany the marvelous voyage of the domestication of the vine from East to West, and the delicious nectar of Calabrian Greco di Bianco is almost certainly the greatest demonstration.

Echo of a glorious past

COMMON ORIGINS OF DIFFERENT GRAPES

Some in-depth genetic research has classified our very ancient “Greco di Bianco”, a vine from which the homonymous wine is obtained, like a malvasia. This Calabrian grape was formerly considered as distinct cultivars from the Malvasias of the Lipari, of Sardinia (of Bosa and of Cagliari), the Greco di Bianco (or of Gerace), Malvasia di Sitges, Malvasia dubrovačka (Croatia), the candid white of Madeira (Portugal) and Tenerife (Canary Islands).

Instead, all the mentioned grapes have shown an “identical molecular profile”, they all come from Calabria!

According to prof. Attilio Scienza, University of Milan, it is not known from which specific Mediterranean region Malvasia grapes left, nor what was the chronology of their stages of diversification in the West, but as shown by some DNA sequences, it seems that this vine did not arrive in Spain from Greece, but from Magna Graecia and therefore perhaps from Calabria.

Vineyards descending towards the sea

The cultivation of these Mediterranean Malvasias is still today located near the sea, as in Calabria; this shows that their wines were for the compositional characteristics suitable for long journeys and the object of intense trade.

A TRACE OF PAST IN THE GRAPES NAME: MALVASIA

In the past there was a lot of confusion between the Malvasia wine and the Greek wines, very similar for the organoleptic characteristics of the wine, as evidenced by the synonymy of Malvasia with Greco di Bianco or Gerace, the only one among the group’s vine varieties in all likelihood, to Greek colonization. In Dalmatia and in Spain it arrived in the Middle Ages to emulate the Venetian malvasias.

A solution of the problem can be found in the history of the name “Malvasia”, as it follows.

According to some studies the name derives from “Monemvasia”, an old commercial port of Laconia, in the Peloponnese. The first written document of a Malvasia dates back to 1214, when the Archbishop of Ephesus Nicola Mesarites referred to a wine called “Monovasia” or “Monemvasios” together with the wines of Chios, Lesbos and Eubea. The Italianisation and diffusion of this term is linked to an active wine trade in the Middle Ages, especially by the Venetians, who began marketing the Vinum de Malvasias in 1278.

Malvasia, the grape, and a glass of liqueur

The name Malvasia referred to the sweet and aromatic wines of Greece (produced in the Peloponnese, in Rhodes, Crete and in the Ionian islands) and after the latter was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, new production centers were created along the sea routes of the Mediterranean. In Italy the first to speak about the various Malvasias was Andrea Bacci at the end of the sixteenth century: in his work he reports that Giulio Cesare Scaligero of Riva del Garda, a humanist cousin him, claimed that the etymology of Monobaticum wine derives from the Greek Monobasiten ( Μονοβασίτήν) term by which Athenaeum of Naucrati (3rd century AD) called a particular wine “the sole basis and foundation of the goodness of all wines”.

Drying the grapes on the reeds

TASTE AND HISTORY

The above mentioned hints of history and oenological science are enough to make clear what experience awaits the lucky drinker of this fantastic sweet and liqueur wine of Calabria, called “Greco di Bianco”.
We wish everyone to drink it in happy company (and at a temperature just below 18 degrees)!

Wines of Calabria: the trace of ancient traditions

06.02.2019

There is an entire literature about CIRÒ wine. This wine is well mentioned into J. Robinson (“The Oxford Companion to Wine”, Third Edition pg 122-123 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0-19-860990-6), M. Ewing-Mulligan & E. McCarthy (Italian Wines for Dummies pg 226-231 Hungry Minds 2001), M. Toussaint-Samat (“A History of Food” pg 263 Wiley-Blackwell 1994),  H. Johnson Vintage (The Story of Wine pg 64 Simon and Schuster 1989).

This internationally recognized wine is the core of wines production in Calabria, a real must, a landmark for lovers of authentic Mediterranean food. This product, especially, occupies one of the top places in Local Exports, together with olive oil and bergamot.

Overall, Cirò is culture, gastronomy, cuisine and the real witness or trace of ancient traditions of winemaking.

In ancient times, particularly, Pliny the Elder writings are one the first historical trace of wine production in the region of Calabria, he testified that during the 1st century AD Calabrian wine were just in Romans listings of quality Italian wines.

Even if slowly, Calabria developed a vibrant wine industry with only the red wines of Cirò, while many of its wonderful wines have a regional and national distribution.

Such Cirò wine taste garnered much international attention, and today Calabrian wines are mostly produced to high alcohol levels and sold to co-operatives who transfer the wines to the northern Italian wine regions, to use them as blending component.

With regard to the general Calabrian production, at this moment, over 90% of the region’s wine production is red wine, with a large portion made from the Gaglioppo grape. Calabria has 12 “Denominazione di origine controllata” (DOC) regions but only 4% of the yearly production is classified as DOC wine.

Given that the winters are mild in all the region, with average temperatures around 10°C, rarely dropping below 5°C, the climate near the coast is very hot and dry throughout most of the year, then the majority of the region’s wine production takes place in the central areas of the eastern and western coastlines.

  1. The starring of wine production in Calabria is, as said, certainly CIRÒ. Its DOC region is located in the eastern foothills of the La Sila region and extends to the Ionian coast. The mark of Cirò classico appears on red wines, therefore Red Cirò is typically very tannic and full bodied with strong fruit presences and subject to 3–4 years vintage. It is mainly produced in the municipalities of Cirò and Cirò Marina (in the province of Crotone), where the soil is predominantly calcareous marl with some clay and sand deposits. Anyway, such wine is a blend of grapes. In fact, Cirò contains at least 95% of the Gaglioppo grape and up to 5% of the white Greco bianco and Trebbiano grapes permitted. Cirò Rosés and Cirò white wines contain from at least 90% Greco bianco up to 10% Trebbiano. In the other Provinces of Calabria, you can find 11 DOC regions. We can list the following, according to our experience:
  2. The wine of Isola di Capo Rizzuto is the DOC of SANT’ANNA, produced in a limited area located south of commune of Melissa. This wine is dry red and rosé, coming from a blend of Gaglioppo, Nocera, Nerello Mascalese, and up to 35% of added Malvasia and Greco bianco.
  3. Jumping to the North of Calabria, the POLLINO DOC is produced in the nearby mountain of higher chain of mountains of Pollino, that forms part of the Apennines. Near the border with Basilicata, that zone produces pale, cherry red wines, subject to 2–3 years of vintage. The wines blend is made primarily with Gaglioppo and Greco nero, with up to 20% of white grape varieties of various provenience.
  4. SAN VITO DI LUZZI is the DOC of San Vito, a short municipality where red and rosé wines are produced with Gaglioppo, Malvasia nera, Greco nero and Sangiovese, and up to 40% of other local white wine varieties.
  5. The SAVUTO DOC comes from the south of the Donnici region, in mountainous terrain that stretches to the coast. The blend of grapes is composed by Gaglioppo, Greco nero, Nerello Cappuccio, Magliocco, Sangiovese and up to 25% of the white wine grapes Malvasia bianca and Pecorello.
  6. The SCAVIGNA DOC comes from the south of Savuto area, in the western coast of Calabria, where are produced dry red and rosé wines. The mixture of grapes results from at least 60% Gaglioppo and Nerello Cappuccio, plus other local red wine varieties, while the white wines come from Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Greco bianco and Malvasia bianca.
  7. A well known trademark is VERBICARO. This DOC is located inside Verbicaro region, in the Pollino foothills, west of Pollino DOC region, until Tyrrhenian coast. The typical blend is made from Gaglioppo and Greco nero with a minimal percentage of white wine grapes Greco bianco, Malvasia bianca and Vernaccia Bianca.
  8. The very famous DOC of GRECO DI BIANCO is a white wine that have alcohol contents of at least 17%. This authentic wine-liquor comes from grapes partially dried prior to pressing and fermentation. The unique visual appearance of Greco di Bianco is a deep amber color, mixed to citrus aromas and herbs scents.
  9. A growing wine is BIVONGI. This DOC of Bivongi land is new and produces red and rosé wines, blended from Gaglioppo, Greco nero, Nocera and Castiglione, while few are the white dry wines made of Greco bianco, Guardavalle, Mantonico bianco, Malvasia bianca and Ansonica.
  10. The production of DONNICI DOC is a red wine, composed of Gaglioppo, Greco nero and Mantonico nero. Its region is the province in the south of Cosenza, nearby La Sila plateau.
  11. The region of LAMEZIA wine produces red and rosé DOC wines. The blend comes from Gaglioppo, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Greco nero, Magliocco and Marsigliana, while the white wines result from Greco bianco, Malvasia bianca and Trebbiano. The zone of these wines is on the very warm plains of the Gulf of Sant’Eufemia, in front of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
  12. A special rival of Cirò is the MELISSA DOC. Its zone is located south of Cirò and it is a wine of similar style, though not with the same fame. The mixture of grapes of this region mainly comes from the Gaglioppo and Greco nero (Black grape), with some scent of the white wine grapes Greco bianco, Malvasia bianca and Trebbiano.

Further to said DOCs, throughout Calabria there are 12 distinct IGT zones (this mark protects only the typcal origin from the geographical place). They cover the entire region. We can mention as IGT of province of Catanzaro “Valdamato”, inside the province of Cosenza “Condoleo”, “Esaro” and “Valle del Crati”. In the province of Crotone we have “Lipuda” and “Val di Neto”. The province of Reggio Calabria counts “Arghillà”, “Costa Viola”, “Locride”, “Palizzi”, “Pellaro”, and “Scilla”.