Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 6: Reggio Calabria — Terme Luigiane

Yesterday’s stage was as expected. No really dramatic events, and a sprint in the end. But Luka Pibernik had not done his homework, when he started celebrating as if he had won, when in was still a lap of 5 km to go.

Today we have the first stage at mainland Italy. We start at the toe, and follw the instep up and a little bit beyond the ankle. It is a rather flat stage. But the final two kilometers is an ascent of 5-10%. It is unlikely that the typical sprinters will be first up here.

We are in the region Calabria, located between the Tyrrenain see over the instep, and the Ionian sea under the arc.

Historically, Calabraia was an important wine region in Italy. The Greeks started wine production 7-800 BC. The region maintained its reputation as a producer of quality wine, particularly powerful reds and sweet dessert wines. The phylloxera hit the region in the 1930s, and then started the decline. Calabria is among the poorer regions in Italy. Agriculture is important to the economy. But to replant the wines after a disaster like phylloxera, is a long term investment. The production was shifted towards cerals, citrus and olives.

Calabraia should be a region well suited for quality wine production. It is often mentioned as one of the “next great regions”. But we still have to wait to see the results. Calabraia has 12 DOC classified districts, but no DOCG classified districts. The local landscape is mountainous, and this has led to fragmented land ownership and widely dispersed vineyard zones. Without effective co-operatives, this can make wine production prohibitively expensive; the burden of purchasing and maintaining winemaking equipment is too high for most smallholders to bear on their own.

The May 2017 issue of the wine magazine “Decanter” is dedicated to Italy. They have an article called “Southern Italy’s 10 hidden gems”. But it seems that they did not find any gems in Calabria. No wines from this region is included among the gems. In an article in Decanter from 2014 “Southern Italy insights” Jane Hunt finished with this:

“Calabria is the slowest starter in the move to improve, but there are good signs, especially from blends including the intriguingly named Magliocco Dolce.”

A slow starter, and it seems that they are still not up to speed. But there are signs of improvement. In Top 50 wines of the year 2013, Decanter  included a white from Calabraia, a Cìro from Librandi. It is a wine to drink young, so we shoud probably look for a more recent vintage today. But it is at least a clear sign of quality production in Calabraia.

There is just one problem, in relation to today’s stage. Ciro, where this wine comes from, is by the Ionian sea, under the arc. We follow the instep along the Tyrrenian sea.

We have to follow the instep up to the ankle, before we come to a classified distict. The first district is Lamenza. Here they used to produce a lot of wine on the plains aldong the Tyrrenian sea. When wine is produced in plains at low altitude in warm areas, the result tends to be high yield and low quality. Some producers have moved up in the hillsides, and there they produce better wine. They produce white from Greco. Rosé and reds are mainly produced from the Sicilian grapes Nerello, Gaglioppo and Greco nero.

If we continue along the coast, we come to Scavigna. The wines from Scavigna DOC are produced in vinyards 250 to 800 meters above sea level. They are good wines, reds made Gaglioppo and some interesting whites.

The last wine districts we include, is Savouto, which partly overlaps with Scavigna. Here they produce good reds. A producer with good reputation is Odoardi.

As said eralier, there are 12 DOC-classified districts. But only 5% of the wine procuded is DOC-classified. The production restrictions the DOC require are not counterbalanced by the prices they command, making them an unattractive prospect to producers. It seems to be a hen and egg problem. They have to rise the quality before they can expect higher prices.

I am sure there are good wines among the unclassified wines, but they are hard to find, a least when one is not in the region.

Italian Wines 2016

Italian Wines is published yearly by Gambero Rosso. This is a detailed guide to Italian Wines. 22 000 wines from 2 400 producers are listed in the book. If you want to fine the best wines from the various regions of Italy, this is your guide. This is a type of book I usually use when I am visiting producers, to find the producers to visit.

The book is available in a paper edition and a Kindle edition. One year, I bought the Kindle edition. But for this kind of book, I prefer the paper version. It is available from Amazon UK on paper and for Kindle. And from Amazon US in paperback and as Kindle edition.

Native Wine Grapes of Italy

0520272269If you are or want to become an Italian wine nerd, you can add this book to your library. Italy has many native grapes, many more than the 375 that are discussed in this book. There are many unclassified grapes that cannot be used in classified wines.

This book is available in hardcover and Kindle edition, and to my surprise: Last time I checked, the Kindle verison was mor expensive than the hardcover version. For a book like this, I prefer a paper version.

Buy hardcover version from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Buy Kindle version from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

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