Wines of Calabria: the trace of ancient traditions


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”.

Southern Economy and Mediterranean Food Export


Wine is very life to man if

taken in moderation.

Does he really live who

lacks the wine which

was created for his joy?


Joy of heart, good cheer and

merriment are wine drunk

freely at the proper time.



Laudato sia l’ulivo nel mattino!

Una ghirlanda semplice, una bianca

tunica, una preghiera armoniosa

a noi son festa.

Chiaro leggero è l’arbore nell’aria…



Not a few historians have written of the looting, which immediately after 1860 the South and Calabria, in particular, suffered by the work of the post-unification Italian state, –  a looting led by the Savoy monarchy, and in the hands of a handful of adventurers from the north of Italy who used that corrupt state to increase his private wealth.

However, despite the systematic robbery against the South, pursued through taxation, initially Savoy and then Fascist, between 800 and 900, and through the industrial protectionism that has favored the factories of northern Italy since the end of the nineteenth century, the South has grown, in spite of everyone, and providentially.

Some economists from the University of Magna Graecia in Calabria argue that, nowadays, the South has grown almost 16 times in every sector relevant to the economy and public services. And this statistical estimate is sufficient both to condemn the sectarianism of the nostalgic of the great old Bourbon south (or neo-Bourbon), which have no reason to speak of an enormous pauperism of the south, both to push northern Italy and the current Italian state to invest more in the south.

In fact, the current poverty and unemployment gaps are “relative”, so it is important to intervene to alleviate the relative poverty (even urgently) and it is decisive and necessary to severely criticize the unworthy enrichment of a part of Italy at the expense of another without assigning it the burden of helping the south.

The proposal to stimulate the economy of the south, which we want to present shortly in this short post, is political and economic together and will be better explained in the next paragraph.
In the meantime, we simply present it as follows:

The remedy for the South, the investment that the State should implement is that necessary to increase the export of food and beverage from the south of Italy: WINE and OLIVE OIL (which goods are full of meaning, for every country and culture,  as the magnificent citations from Bible and the Poetry intend to recall). 



The remedy of exporting food and beverage (wine and olive oil and all related products) is also a spiritual answer to the neo-fascist temptations of industrial capitalism of northern Italy. 

Our cultural references for this response are the capitalism with a human face of Pope Leone XIII and his encyclical “Rerum Novarum”, but also the self-sustainable economy of the well-known banker of the poors, Mohhamed Junus, and his theory of self-sustainable social business.
We will apply these two sources of economic thought to the economic policy of export incentives in Southern Italy.

We think that re-entering resources from abroad is the most peaceful alternative to the absenteeism’s policy of the great Italian political parties, a policy absent from the South.
The South must be able to support itself, even self-support, without relying on an absent and disinterested state towards their own poors.

Another of our references will be the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who has also recently claimed that culture, even and above all the humanistic and religious culture, is at the same time a true education to fiscal and economic democracy, a response to the one-dimensional thought of the selfish profit and fascist/capitalistic robbery carried out to the detriment of people’s dignity.

We believe that a possible implementation of social capitalism that the Church has spoken of may come from both the cultural awakening of the self-sustainable dignity of the poors and, particularly in the Southern Italy, the improvement of social, cultural and scientific relations through the commercial exchange of exports.



The reason can be found in Rerum novarum, the famous encyclical of the Pope, Leone XIII, who  also recognized that the poor have a special status, according to the modern Catholic principle of the “preferential option for the poor” and the notion that God is on the side of the poor were expressed in this document. Who is rich is a sort of temporary bursar of the providence, whose action shall be devoted to the poor.

The South is the poor brother of the rich North, who shall either renounce his own riches, extracted by deceit and theft, to be perfect and holy (like the rich young man in the Gospel parable) or “make friends”, among the brothers, “by means of his unjust wealth” (in order to be welcomed in the “eternal tents” of the eternal friendship of the brothers and of the Lord).

However, that the looted South has risen 16 times by the unification of Italy, as economists say, while maintaining the sign of a severe economic gap, shows that the economy is more complex than current science knows economic. Providence operates overcoming and frustrating the bad intentions of the richs, through porous and fuzzy social networks that made leak, even to the South, the wealth stolen through decades and decades of economic, social, cultural and family exchanges, completely peaceful between North and South.
There is enough truth in this observation to silence the pretensions of both Northern Leagueists (indifferent to the South gaps) and Southern Leagueists (secessionist, like Pino Aprile and similar), both communist thinking (always critical of a mythical oppression of the south) or the radical chic (indolent and totally refractory to even the problem of world poverty) and the fake Berlusconism (that rebukes the poors of inertia and inactivism).

The South could even self-sustain itself, as the banker of the poors Mohamment Junus says of developing countries, intertwining peaceful export relations with the rest of the world without asking for help from the “rich young man” of the North or the Italian absenteist state.
Providence would continue to operate peacefully, decade after decade, undisturbed, and the richs could sleep on their laurels, while the social, economic and religious culture of wine and olive oil, with its export flows puts the poor in contact with the widespread providence on the whole earth and again fills the hungry and the humble with goods.