Melissa: the prestige of Calabrian wine culture

8.1.2018

Among the Mediterranean primary wines of Calabria you can find “Melissa”, a DOC which enriches cuisine and gastronomy with its historically recognized prestige. A relic of ancient winemaking of Magna Grecia, still today appreciated for the excellent organoleptic characteristics, obtained only by Gaglioppo grapes.

 

THE LAND OF THE WINE

The vineyards are placed in Cirò, Cirò Marina, Crucoli e Melissa Districts, where Gaglioppo  grapes find optimal conditions, thanks to a medium-textured soil, a mesoclimate, the sun exposition and the wonderful people living here.

The focal territory of production is Torre Melissa, in the very heart of that Calabrian zone indicated as “Alto Ionio Calabrese”, with an area of 54.800 hectares, where this nectar is so named after Melisseus, a prince of Crete or after the Melissa commune (in turn named after the Cretan prince who is said to have founded it).

The vineyards lie on the east-facing hills or close to the coast, so near to the sea that this makes Ciro and Melissa the lowest-lying viticultural areas in Calabria. Here, Melissa wines are either red or white (the latter type is effectively vanishing from production). The white wine comes from the grapes of Greco Bianco, Trebbiano and/or Malvasia Bianca.

The sea is near to the terroir here, and the cooling and heating of the land causes morning and afternoon breezes, which exclude the risk of fungal vine diseases.  The terroir is quite the same of Cirò DOC, in many cases, therefore this Ciro’s neighbors can enjoy quality and success of its winemaking.

A Wine from the Past: Verbicaro

7.1.2018

 

THE PAST OF VERBICARO’S VINEYARDS

Calabrian gastronomy includes many Mediterranean wines, but no one is so full of history and local culture like “Verbicaro“, a protected denomination (“DOC”), a wine produced in a region comprised between the Tyrrhenian Sea and Pollino Massif.

Plentiful historical evidence shows that the ancient Romans produced there this nectar, letting ferment and age the grapes in the semidarkness of the “catuvi,” the local cellars. Precisely, in the more ancient past, grapes were taken on the back of mules to the so-called “parmienti,” where barefoot peasants crushed and put them in barrels inside Catuvi.

 

THE LAND OF VINEYARDS

Verbicaro“, protected denomination (“DOC”), is a wine produced in a region comprised between the Tyrrhenian Sea and Pollino Massif. These lands, full of vineyards, are key factors in creating a viticulturally suitable mesoclimate for “Verbicaro”. The area of Verbicaro is a sub-region of Cosenza and it is DOC like the other local wines Donnici, Pollino and San Vito di Luzzi.

The topography of the land helps channeling wind and waters down the valleys and through the vineyards. The reliable air movement provides a stable environment, while the sea waters, surrounding the Calabrian peninsula, moderate the intense heat of south Italian summer.

Effectively, the Verbicaro area is small, between the Savuto and Lamezia zones (the coastal hills of the ‘Riviera dei Cedri’ and beside the River Lao, where this fruity ruby red wine is ideal with red meats and spicy food), but this wine concentrates a large number of grapes, including Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Greco Bianco and Malvasia Bianca. Therefore, it represents well all the scents, flavours and fragrances of an authentic Mediterranean cuisine.

 

THE PEOPLE OF VINEYARDS

The wine reflects something of the people and the local history of the village called “Verbicaro”.

This small town is surrounded by the hills of a cavernous valley and by mountains on either side, is 400 meters above the Tyrrhenian coast and offers a magnific view of the Calabrian hinterland and seascape below.

The history of local people recalls the ancient foundation by a pre-Roman, nomadic tribe, then Verbicaro has been conquered by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Barbarians, Spanish and French.

But the winemaking survived to these different cultures.  The wine made by the grapes harvested in Verbicaro’s vineyards has been enjoyed since Roman times, and today experts considers that wine even the Calabria’s best wine.

 

Tables about the three (3) known Verbicaro wines

  1. “Verbicaro Bianco” is white and sparkling. Alcohol: 10.5%, straw yellow, soft, distinctive, dry, sometimes aromatic.  Its grapes are Greco Bianco, Guarnaccia, Malvasia Bianca.
  2. “Verbicaro Rosso” is red and sparkling. Alcohol: 12.0%, ruby red, winey, soft, distinctive, dry, sometimes slightly aromatic. Its grapes are Gaglioppo, Greco Bianco, Greco Nero, Guarnaccia, Malvasia Bianca.
  3. “Verbicaro Rosato” is red and sparkling. Alcohol: 10.5%, pink more or less intense, soft, distinctive, dry. Its grapes are Gaglioppo, Greco Bianco, Greco Nero, Guarnaccia, Malvasia Bianca.