Calabria, which forms the toe of the Italian boot, is a predominately mountainous region with marked variations in microclimates between the sunny coastal hills along the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas and the chilly heights of the Sila and Aspromonte massifs. Two grape varieties of Greek origin dominate, Gaglioppo in red wines, Greco in whites, though the types of wine they make can vary markedly from one place to another.
Calabria’s best-known wine is Ciro’, which grows in low hills along the Ionian coast between the ancient Greek cities of Sybaris and Kroton (Sibari and Crotone today). Local legend has it that Ciro’ descended directly from Krimisa, the wine Calabrian athletes drank to celebrate victory in an early Olympiad. Lately in Calabria, Ciro’ has taken on contemporary touches as new methods of vine training and temperature-controlled winemaking have diminished the alcoholic strength (as well as the propensity to oxidize), making the wine rounder, fuller in fruit and fresher in bouquet.
The classic Ciro’ is red, which in the reserve version has the capacity to age beyond a decade from certain vintages. There is also a rosato to drink young and a bianco from Greco grapes that shows impressive youthful freshness.Recent experiments have also shown unexpected class in the ancient Magliocco variety for red wines, as well as convincing style with Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Sauvignon also show promise in Calabria’s hills.
Among the whites, the rare Greco di Bianco stands out as an exquisite but increasingly rare sweet wine. From a local variety of Greco grown near the Ionian coast at the town of Bianco, it has a rich, velvety texture and an intriguing citrus-like bouquet. The nearly identical Greco di Gerace is a non-DOC wine that carries the ancient place name. From the same area comes Mantonico di Bianco, a Sherry-like amber wine with hints of almond and citrus in bouquet and flavor.