As 2013 begins, I have unfinished business from 2012 to attend to, none more than three articles which never got written in 2012 thanks to too much work, too little time and life in general. I was happy to see a post bemoaning similar pieces almost not written in 2012 by Alice Feiring who is a much more prolific writer than I am. I guess we all have articles that remain unwritten until the right moment reveals itself.
I then preceded to read a number of Alice’s last posts in December, including one on the Drinks Business article on the 50 most influential women in the wine world. All the posts were worth a read but that one really piqued my interest.
I’ve been trying for years now to write a book on women in wine and I often find myself asking some of the silly questions that Alice refers to but what has stymied me the most is that many women don’t, rightly so, want to be thought of in terms of what sex they are but rather on the quality of their work. There’s no denying that being a woman in the wine world is different than being a man but certainly that is just a starting point.
I’m still trying to complete that book and hope this will be the year I actually do it. I can take a leaf from Tom Hyland who recently published his book and of course, from Alice herself who has published two of note.
As always, I digress, from the topic of this entry – Italian wines from the Terre di Cosenza DOC of Calabria. How did I discover these wines? Through an amazing woman I met at Vinitaly, Maddalena Mazzeschi. I had the pleasure of meeting Maddalena through a mutual friend, Susanna Crociani.
I haven’t visited Calabria in many years and the last time I was in Calabria was 2003. I went to see two beautiful men, the Bronzi di Riace, in Reggio Calabria, took a local train to Tropea, a lovely town on the coast, and went swimming in the cleanest water I have ever seen at Scilla. What I remember from that trip was the beauty of land and the spiciness of the food. Calabria is home to some of the world’s most famous peperoncino. What I didn’t remember at all were the wines and not because I didn’t drink them but because they left me without any lasting memories.
The only winery I had heard of at the time was Librandi, a leader and a great winery. In 2011 I was invited to an amazing vertical tasting of their wine “Magno Megonio,” another post that ought to be written.
Since that time, things have changed and I have discovered many wines from Calabria often based on Gaglioppo. Terre di Cosenza DOC is a new DOC that was created in 2011.
There are a variety of wines that are governed by this new DOC including a red, a white, a rose’, a sparkling white and a sparkling rose’and a wine called “Terre di Cosenza DOC Magliocco”. There is also the possibility to make novello, red and white passiti, and red and white late harvest wines in the new legislation as well as a riserva version of the red wine and the Magliocco. There is also an additional “sottozona” or area that can be indicated on the wine – “Colline di Crati” to indicate a specific part of the viticultural area where the grapes can be grown.
For the red version of Terre di Cosenza DOC, wineries must use:
Magliocco (a minimum of 60%) while the Rose’ must be a created from the following grapes either individually or blended for a minimum of 60%:
Greco nero, Magliocco, Gaglioppo, Aglianico, Calabrese.
White Terre di Cosenza DOC is made from Greco bianco, Guarnaccia bianca, Pecorello, Montonico (locally Mantonico), alone or together they must be 60% of the blend.
Both the white and rose versions of the sparkling wine must be made from 60% Mantonico and “Terre di Cosenza” Magliocco must be made from 85% Magliocco.
As often happens when tasting wines at Vinitaly, the local office of the Italian Sommelier Association of the region was involved in my tasting. They were all very efficient and friendly.
Terre di Cosenza, in Northern Calabria, was created in order to simplify the panorama of Calabrian wines, I was told, and it incorporated some of the existing DOCs and IGTs. Calabria as a wine region was already producing wines when the Romans occupied the land but the fame of these wines disappeared for many years and the wines were first mentioned again in the Middle Ages.
Magliocco Dolce (Arvino) was the grape that held my interest with its spicy, sexy dark fruit and tertiary aromas and flavors. I could see how this grape and the wines made from it were able to hold their own against the Calabrian cuisine, which for me at times, was almost too spicy and I love spicy food.
Magliocco Dolce was a real discovery and I was enthusiastic about its’ potential. It is often blended with Greco Nero in these wines, a combination I preferred to the blending with international varieties. Other interesting grape varieties that I tried were Montonico and Pecorello.
In terms of climate and exposition, the entire Calabrian peninsula is surrounded by the sea, both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian sides of the Mediterranean. The area near Cosenza, however, does have higher elevations than some of the other DOCs in Calabria. The climate is Mediterranean near the coast and becomes more Continental as you move inland, I was told. Calabria suffers from drought but the grape varieties grown in this area are well suited to the particular micro-climate and are able to ripen thanks to good thermal excursion between day and night temperatures.
I was excited to try these wines and look forward to getting to know the area better. Calabria, like much of Italy, is a wealth of treasures which need to be savored slowly and thoughtfully and which are best shown to you by friends.
Before I end this though, I must mention one fruit from Calabria which is close to my heart, the Bergamotto.
This citrus fruit is used in a variety of ways – as an essential element in many perfumes, as a celebratory fruit in Jewish ceremonies, and as an element in baking. A chef I met in New York two years ago, a Paolo Caridi, for a project that I was working on for Casa Italiana Atletica has founded an entire pasty shop in Reggio Calabria based on using ancient aromas such as the Bergamotto.
While Calabria is not on the beaten path, the attention that they are now devoting to their wines deserves to be recognized. If you can see the Bronzi di Riace and also swim in that beautiful sea at the same time, I think you will feel very satisfied with a trip to Calabria, a feast for the stomach, the heart and the soul.