Calabria is a land full of surprises, a wine region as well as beautiful beaches, stunning countryside and impressive Greek ruins. The Greeks settled in this region in the eighth Century BC and saw that this land was perfect for wine making. So they began planting the first vines and today thanks to the hard-working wine producers, we can enjoy excellent red and white wines from this region.
A mountainous region
The region is split into five provinces; Reggio Calabria, Catanzaro, Cosenza, Crotone and Vibo Valentia. Each region is famous for its own wines and to date, there are 12 Doc wines on the market. There would have been more, but due to its economic problems in the past, the wine industry in Calabria was not as fruitful as other parts of Italy.
Nevertheless, they are now catching up. The younger generation are doing everything they can to hold on to this industry. They can see the potential the region has to offer. With newly-improved transport and equipment, Calabria is going full steam ahead to get the recognition it deserves.
When you go around this region, you cannot help but notice vineyards spread out all over, including some of the most famous wine estates in Calabria such as Librandi, Criserà, Tenuta Luzzolini, Tramontana and many others.
Some of the vineyards are high up in the mountains which made it very difficult for the wine growers in the past. Mules used to carry the harvest. Agricultural tools were expensive and not very advanced. All of this is changing thanks to new technology.
Computers can measure soil moisture in vineyards, among other things. We can look forward to Calabria obtaining more DOC titles soon. This sunny region has a perfect climate for producing wine. It is almost sunny 12 months of the year.
The grapes in Calabria
I always get excited when I go to the local market and see these bunches of grapes. You can choose between black, red and green. My favourite ones are the black grapes as they seem to be the juiciest and sweetest. The grapes are huge compared to the ones I used to buy back home.
Many people in Calabria make their own wine. Some are lucky to have a cellar or garage where they can make this wonderful wine. Both of my neighbours grow grapes in their gardens and some people from their balcony. I was surprised to see this vine which had been planted from the top floor of an apartment block hang down to almost touching the ground.
It looked like something out of Jack and the Beanstalk. I then learnt that the owner owned the whole block. The harvest season is usually in September where they hand-pick the best looking grapes before crushing them.
In the past neighbours, friends and family would jump up and down in giant vats containing thousands of grapes and crush them with their bare feet. Some people still do this but nowadays, other tools as well as machines can do all that work.
The most famous DOC wines from Calabria are:
Greco di Bianco
S. Vito di Luzzi
Most of the wine produced in Calabria is red which is made from the Galliopo grape. Another grape variety widely used in Calabria is Greco di Bianco. Although Calabria is surrounded by sea, it is mainly mountainous and therefore, meat dishes are quite common and pair well with the excellent red wines.
Drinking Wine at Estates, festivals and restaurants
You also have the opportunity to visit some of the most famous wine estates in Calabria such as Librandi and others who understood Calabria’s potential. They organise guided tours and you will be able to taste and learn about different wines.
There are also many festivals where you will have the chance to sample some of the local wine. A glass of wine in a bar or restaurant can vary from 3 to 4 euro. A cup of wine at a festival costs 1 euro, but it is usually served in a plastic cup for safety reasons. The festivals are the ideal place to try them. It is amazing to see how lively everyone is at these festivals after a few cups of wine. You can see many barrels of wine lined up for the festival-goers.
Many restaurants serve also local wine in a carafe which usually comes in a quarter, half or litre. They are very reasonable when they are served in this way. However, it is still pleasant and affordable when you order a bottle of wine in Calabria in a restaurant or bar.
I strongly recommend drinking Calabrian wine when in Calabria. You will also find some excellent Sicilian wines as Calabria is very close to Sicily. When you drink a glass of Calabrian wine, you get to know Calabria. A strong character, fruity combined with elegance.
You can also go on a tour around vineyards and taste the wine on this excursion
Calabria’s Greek name Enotria means land of wine and it really does live up to its name. It is said that one Greek athlete drank up to 10 litres of Cirò wine a day, the oldest and most popular wine in Calabria. Wine connoisseurs won’t be disappointed.