Not many people know of the existence of so-called “white olives“. This ancient variety has been recovered in Rossano. The plant, which at the time of the Magna Graecia was widespread throughout Calabria, especially near the Basilian monasteries, was called “leucolea“, which means white olive, due to the characteristic of its external peel which remains white even when they reach the full maturation.
The Leucolea is an ancient olive cultivar that survives as a wild variety especially in Calabria and has the particularity of presenting white fruits.
Before maturation the olives appear to be of a beautiful green color, like those of other varieties, but subsequently the exocarp does not become pigmented, it remains white.
Usually, in fact, at the time of veraison (botanic term for maturation) within the fruits there is a degradation of chlorophyll and an increase in the production of anthocyanins which give the olives the characteristic black-blue color. In the case of this white olive, called Leucocarpa, instead, the synthesis of pigments is blocked and in the face of a decrease in chlorophyll there is no correspondent increase in anthocyanins.
HISTORY, TRADITION, RELIGIOUS MEANING
As many historical sources report, the Basilian monks since 800 A.D. the time gave a strong impulse to some crops in Calabria and probably took care of these olive trees to use them in liturgical rites.
The oil of the leucolea, in fact, was also called “crisma’s oil” and was used in religious functions to anoint the priests and the high Byzantine imperial officials, in the ceremonies for the crowning of the emperors, and above all as a sacred oil in holy sacraments such as baptism, confirmation and anointing of the sick.
“Balbino” wine is the ancient white wine of Altomonte. Discovering such mysterious Balbino means re-discover the ancient wine of Altomonte (Cosenza) handed down from Roman authors and that in the last century, thanks to the Giacobini Company, became one of the ‘luxury wines’ of Calabria.
THE LAND OF THIS WINE
vineyards rise above a mountains chain, which dominates the whole Valley of Crati river, and extends its view to the
Gulf of Taranto.
Wide is the horizon, always of a temperate climate, often subject to the gust of strong winds. Here lies one of the most beautiful villages in Italy: Altomonte, a municipality in the province of Cosenza, which represents a rare jewel of nature, history and art. Its rich cultural heritage is clearly visible in the splendid architecture of its historic center, in the Church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, the greatest example of Gothic-Angevin art in Calabria or in the Norman castle of 12th century.
previous name of Altomonte (its
toponym) is Balbia, perhaps a
Phoenician voice deriving from Baal,
which means “lord” and “divinity”; most likely the village
was originally moved to the Esaro
river, where, in the Larderia
district, the remains of a Roman villa dating back to the 1st century AD have
1065 the town of Altomonte is mentioned as Brahalla
or Brakhalla, coming from the Arabic
hypothesis “blessing of God“.
town, besides Balbia, was called Braellum
or Bragallum, by King Robert the Wise of the Angevin dynasty, or according to others
by Pilippo Sangineta in 1337 the name
was changed to Altofiume.
But even this name was not lasting, since Queen Joanna I, also of the Angevin dynasty, gave her the name of Altomonte.
HISTORY OF BALBINO WINE
Balbia (alias Altomonte) was known to the
ancients for one thing in particular: his
wine. The city became more celebrated in antiquity by reason of its
Plinio counting the
most celebrated wines of Italy, did not exclude those of Babia.
Athenaeus calls this
wine generous, and truly austere [“Vinum
Babinum generosum, et admodum austerum, et semper se ipso melius nascitur”;
Ath. Deipn. Lib. I], and wants the Bimblina
vine to be born here, which was transplanted to Syracuse by the first King Poli, a native of Argo Greco, so
that the wine made from this grape by Siracusans was called Polio wine. According to these
historical sources, therefore, the Balbino
of Altomonte would even appear to be the ancestor of the Moscato di Siracusa, born from the same
In modern times, we find it among those ‘luxury wines’ of Calabria together with the Provitaro Bianco (compared to the Chablis), the Calabrese Rosso (compared to Bordeaux), the Malvasia, the Moscato Giacobini and the Moscato Diavolone.
A FAMILY AND AN INDUSTRY: GIACOBINI
In Altomonte, between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, the family of Giacobini were active, a noble family that became a renowned company for the production of fine wines, liqueurs and vermouth.
Balbino Bianco was one of their best products; in 1889 he won the gold medal at the National Wines Fair; then, Ciro Luigi Giacobini and his son Francesco gave birth to a real industry, one of the few then existing in the province of Cosenza.
industry of Giacobini family gave
rise to a period of great economic development of the territory, the factory
created work for dozens of workers, reaching over 200,000 bottles a year, and
exporting all over the world.
Fratelli Giacobini Company
of Altomonte (CS) was located in the eponymous Palazzo Giacobini in Altomonte, today home to the Hotel Barbieri.
activity has survived thanks to the Sciarra
brothers and their actual brand Moliterno:
in the company museum set up in a completely renovated patronal house, the
Sciarra family still tells of the Giacobini Company through objects, equipment
and documents, private and not.
what was the grape used by the Giacobini for their Balbino Bianco (the standard Balbino white wine) is not crystal
clear, nor whether it was that of which the sources speak or a mixed grape
any case, the Farneto del Principe farm in Altomonte called Balbino one of its
wines, made from white Greek and Malvasia grapes.
A RARITY: BLACK BALBINO
is also a Black Balbino in
Altomonte, called in dialect ‘mparinata:
it is a late-ripening vine (in the first and second decade of October), with a
medium-large bunch, conical in shape, fairly long and compact but sometimes
sparse and with a peduncle medium-short.
wine coming from this grape medium-small, ellipsoidal or short ellipsoidal, is
a red wine.
The skin is thick, very pruinose (from this the term “mparinata”, that is” floured “) and blue-black. The pulp is not very firm, pleasantly sweet and rightly acid.
Black Balbino grape prefers little expanded forms of cultivation such the
sapling and is a rustic vine, not very sensitive to adversity and to parasites.
It was also recovered in Cirò Marina,
where it is used in the wine making and is attested from the mid-1800s; once it
was used as a table grape, as well as to make wine.
almost disappeared, it gives grapes that come together for winemaking with