Calabria, formerly known as Italia, is one of the most ancient regions of Italy and is located on the toe of the famed boot that makes up the shape of the country. Evidence has shown that some form of human presence has been in the region since around 700,000 BC, which is absolutely astonishing to think about.
Civilisation of any real sort did not appear in the region until about 3,500 BC, which is when the first proper villages began to be developed. It was eventually settled by tribes of the region before being discovered by the Ancient Greeks and being given the name Italia, after the Itali tribe that lived in the region. During this period the Greeks settled heavily in the region and it became a thriving centre for philosophy and science.
Following the defeat of the Greeks by tribes roaming up from the South, the region fell under the control of the Roman Empire in around 300 BC. They settled and made it part of the empire, with relative peace in the area existing until around 800 AD. The region also saw a heavy influx of Byzantine people, which is reflected in much of the ancient culture and architecture that Calabria is known for. It is likely that it was during this time that wine began to become prominent in the region.
The region eventually became part of the Kingdom of Naples but it took a long period of Italianization before Greek was no longer the dominant language.
When it comes to agriculture the region is known for having particularly rich soil, which in turn further bolsters the wine production in the area. While Calabria is perhaps lesser known than other regions for the quality of its wine, it is home to an excellent Italian red wine called the Librandi Gravello.
Librandi’s reputation has always been steeped in its penchant for innovation, which allowed the winemaker to escape the regional shackles that so many smaller distributors have experienced and begin to gain something of a reputation in Italy. Experimentation with international vines during the 1980s allowed the producer to breathe new life into its products in addition to helping them gain recognition on both the domestic and international stages.
While the 1980s was a period of international expansion and collaboration, the group refocused its efforts on enhancing the reputation on the local vines once they had established their reputation. Lesser known Calabrian grapes were revived and used extensively to counter the increasing use of more popular varieties as standard.
This led to the winemaker starting to use wide-reaching blends that incorporated many of these local grapes that had almost became extinct through lack of use. In this way the company was better able to stand out from the crowd and define a unique product that would capture the imaginations of connoisseurs.
Librandi began to cultivate a number of experimental vineyards that were dedicated to bringing these grapes back to prominence, with their Duce Sanfelice vineyard hosting grapes such as Arvino and Pecorello. The company then began introducing the grapes into their wines, with the Arvino, otherwise known as the Gaglioppo, becoming a major component of what would develop into their signature Librandi Gravello.
The Origins of the Wine
Despite using the Gaglioppo grape extensively, the wine was first produced in 1988. This was a period when the grape was not as readily available as it is today, which meant that production was somewhat limited. This was compounded by the fact that 60% of the composition of the wine makes use of the grape, with Cabernet Sauvignon rounding out the rest.
The Cabernet Sauvignon in particular is known as one of the most popular Italian red wine grapes and its inclusion in this wine is no accident. It provides a deep texture to complement the flavours of the Gaglioppo grape and allowed the wine to gain some degree of prominence during the company’s domestic expansion of the 1980s.
The wine also undergoes a fairly rigorous production period, with the grapes being harvested over the course of the first ten days of October before they are fermented in special vats made from stainless steel. Once vinification is completed the product is further refined by spending an additional year in Allier barrels.
This refinement continues once the wine is bottled, with the drink spending a further six months in the bottle before it is deemed fit to go to market. This careful and deliberate fermentation process has ensured that the wine maintains a high level of quality, which in turn has seen its average yearly sales increase to the point where 90,000 bottles per year are made.
Regardless of the long gestation period for the wine itself, it is still recommended that it is allowed to sit for a number of years to truly get the most out of it. Librandi themselves recommend that the wine be kept for five years before it is opened and enjoyed, as it is at this point that the wine reaches its richest and most flavoursome state.
When opened the wine should be consumed fairly quickly, with a vacuum sealer being used to retain as much of the great flavour as possible. This is a red wine that is ideal for hearty meals and it will go well with any dish that contains red meat, acting as the perfect complement to the rich flavours of the food.
It is also suitable for consumption with some white meats, including wildfowl, though it is best combined with rich foods.
For many this property has led to it becoming an extremely popular companion of stronger cheeses, with the wine acting to offset and complement the extremely rich flavours of the cheese. This means that it is ideal for dinner parties in which a full-blooded meal is to be enjoyed, but it can also be sampled with smaller meals. As always, a little experimentation is key to finding the right combination for you.