I recently had the pleasure of visiting Ciro in Calabria, the toe of the boot of Italy.
Not only was there sun and sea but also superb wine. The trip, organised by one of our suppliers Astrum Wines, included a visit to one of their producers Tenuta del conte. A little winery in Ciro Marina and with several vineyards around Ciro. We were hosted my Mariangela, the winemaker and her family
Mariangela inherited the winery and vineyards from her father and older brother and began making wine in 2012 after giving up her Legal career. She pours her heart and soul into her wines doing everything from vineyard maintenance, picking, vinification and bottling. She somehow even finds time to have an experiment or two on the go to discover new and evermore expressive ways of bringing out her grapes character. Her wines show her passion and devotion and are beautifully pure.
The main grape varieties of the area are Greco Bianco (white) found in many areas across southern Italy and Gaglioppo, a red grape variety from the Calabria region. Mariangela makes a very sophisticated orange wine from her Greco Bianco, with notes of orange blossom and stone fruit like apricot. It is also very clean and dry and with age develops weight similar to that of a lightly oaked wine despite never having seen any. This is due to the small amount of sediment in the Tenuta del Conte wines. They are all natural, organic and unoaked.
In Ciro there is a big emphasis on the Gaglioppo grape variety and in purely expressing its unique characters without blending it with other grape varieties just to give it a more colour. And it is definitely worth it. Gaglioppo gives wines a more rusty colour than we may generally be used to in our everyday red wines. It has a similar lightness in colour and shares the fine dry tannins of its northern cousin Nebbiolo (the grape variety used in Barolo).I had the privilege of trying some older vintages on my tip and they age very well. It retains its clean finish while the tannins soften and the fruit deepens.
We spent a morning having a tour of the different vineyards, some with vines 50 years old. There were sites right next to the coast from which you could see the sea and feel the refreshing sea breeze, others in the mountains. Other than the usual pests and fungi to contend with, these organic vines also lost much of their fruit this year to the wild boar, especially those in the more mountainous regions. Each site had slightly different clay soil composition, which gives a different depth of flavour or emphasis of the Gaglioppo characteristics. Those in “red clay” which is rich in iron, produce my less but very high quality fruit with a particularly intense flavour that Mariangela uses in her Reserva red wines (aged for 5 years before release).
The wine that really blew me away on this trip though was the Gaglioppo Rosato (Rosé). This is a serious rosé, not just for summer glugging. Because of Gaglippo’s characteristics in the glass the rosé is darker with a distinctive orange hue. It would not be surprising to mistake it for a skin contact/orange wine at first glance. Mariangela’s rosés are beautifully floral with soft red fruits, wild strawberries, and still carry that dryness and acidity that make it a perfect accompaniment to the local cheeses and charcuterie. I think I would be in the company of many Calabrians in saying that Rosato is one of the best expressions of Gaglioppo. Full of fruit and lively acidity and backed by a gentle layer of tannins. Not only is it wonderful when young, but as with its red big brother, it ages wonderfully, becoming similar to a light red with age but with the depth of flavour you expect from an aged red wine. I was lucky enough to enjoy a couple of glasses of a 2009 over an extended meal of traditionally Calabrian food and I can honestly say that it was the best pairing. So if you have any rich meat stews or a cheese and charcuterie platter or even grilled fish, look out for Gaglioppo Rosato. You will not be disappointed!
Check out the Ciro wines we stock at the moment: