As any Italian wine love will know, the region that a wine comes from is extremely important. Producers take great pride in the qualities that the terroir imbues into their wines. Plus, there are certain grape varieties that only grow in certain regions.
This goes a long way to lending variety to the wines that come from the Italian industry. This regional focus is also reflected in the regulations that the DOC has in place. As well as dictating the proportion of grape varieties that can be used in a particular wine, the DOC regulations also highlight the exact region that is comes from.
Any wine of that type that comes from the wrong region cannot carry the DOC label.
As you can see, the region is important when it comes to Italian wine. As a consumer, that means it’s also important that you know about the region that a wine should come from to ensure you don’t end up buying a bottle that’s anything less than the real thing.
And that brings us to the subject of today’s article – Calabria.
Calabria is something of an interesting territory for a number of reasons. We’re going to take a closer look at it here before examining some of the wines that come from the region.
Where is Calabria?
Calabria is a territory located in the southern regions of Italy. If you imagine the country as a giant boot, as many who see it on a map do, Calabria essentially takes up most of the foot and the toe section.
The region is also one of the most rural in all of Italy. It has avoided the industrialisation that has occurred throughout much of the country, which makes it a prime location for Italian wine producers who want to set up their own operations. Interestingly, this lack of industrialisation does seem to have an impact on the economy. In fact, per capita earnings in the region are typically lower than the Italian average.
This may have resulted from the fact that many of the region’s inhabitants emigrated away to other countries or other parts of Italy following World War II. This fact also seems to have played a role in the condition of the territory’s wine industry.
Calabria as a whole features 12 regions that fall under the DOC’s watchful eye. The vast majority of the wines that come from the region use the Gaglioppo grape and over 90% of the wines from Calabria are red.
But worryingly, less than 5% of all wines from the region carry the DOC label. This lack of quality, at least if you consider the DOC label the only sign of quality in the Italian wine industry, likely stems back to the emigration mentioned before. The territory’s wine industry took a major hit with so many people moving away.
Having said that, there’s a dedicated group of wine producers in the region who wish to elevate its status in the eyes of the industry. They aim to emulate the results of similar groups in territories like Sicily, which have historically had poor reputations that they’re only now starting to cast off.
This may not make Calabria seem like a particularly impressive wine region. However, the fact remains that the region is one of the oldest in all of Italy. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that the region was cultivated before even the Ancient Greeks arrived in the territory. That would mean that Calabria has had a wine industry, in some form or another, for over two millennia.
As with every other Italian wine region, there are still plenty of great wines to be had from Calabria. Let’s take a look at some of the best that you can choose from.
Those who’ve heard of the Calabria region before will usually point to Ciro being the best wine to come from it. In fact, the locals in the region also agree. There’s a legend that Ciro is derived from a wine known as Krimisa, which is the wine that athletes from the Calabria region drank way back during the days of the ancient Olympics.
The wine comes from the Ionian coast and likely doesn’t have quite as much in common with its Krimisa as Calabrians would have you believe. However, it is certainly an underrated example of red wines. Aromatic and fresh, it’s certainly reflective of the coastal regions that it calls home. It also usually has great ageing potential, with the best examples of the wine being capable of ageing for a decade or more. Once aged, the wine transforms into a more complex beast that mixes notes of spices and tar with both black and red fruits.
Interestingly, there is also a Rosé that falls under the Ciro appellation that you may want to try.
Greco di Bianco
While the Calabria region is primarily known for its red wines, there are some options for white wine lovers as well.
In fact, the regions has developed something of a reputation for producing some exceptional sweet Italian white wines. Perhaps foremost among them is the Greco di Bianco, which is also among the rarer of the wines to come from the region. Though produced in limited amounts, it’s developed a reputation for quality that few other wines from the region can compare with.
The key to the wine is that producers dry their grapes before pressing and fermenting them. This process also leads to them having a high alcohol content of 17%, which only adds to the appeal in some quarters.
The Final Word
Though perhaps one of the lesser known regions in the current Italian wine industry, Calabria has a rich history that’s often hidden behind a less than stellar reputation. While many of the wines that come from the region don’t obtain DOC classification, those that do are often of exceptional quality.
As such, it’s certainly a region worth exploring, especially for those who feel like they’ve exhausted their options from more famous regions.