Calabria is one of southern Italy's most exciting wine regions for indigenous grape varieties, says Walter Speller, who picks several wine producers to know about.
These producers first appeared in the regional profile of Calabria in the May 2018 issue of Decanter. Decanter Premium subscribers can read the full article here.
Six Calabria producers to know
Francesco de Franco is one of a handful of young Cirò producers who strictly adheres to organic protocols. Due to their highly original expressions of the red Gaglioppo grape, these producers have been dubbed ‘Cirò Revolution’. De Franco makes complex, long-lived wines that defy the region’s undeserved label of rustic and tannic – a reputation that led to a controversial change of rules to allow the blending of international varieties. His complex Riserva, which stays on the skins for 40 days, clearly shows the fallacy of that change of rule.
No newcomer, Ferrocinto (pictured top) was founded in 1658, but the estate’s potential has only been revealed since 2000 with the replanting of its vineyards, located in the Pollino Mountains at 600m above sea level, with a strong focus on indigenous varieties – notably Magliocco Dolce. Research in its experimental vineyard has unearthed a further 20 local varieties that are completely unknown and potentially interesting. Winemaker Stefano Coppola makes blends of Magliocco Dolce and the more rustic Magliocco Canino, while cask samples of pure Magliocco Dolce show huge class.
Agricultural college drop-out Giuseppe Calabrese planted his first vines at the age of 10. He took over old vineyards from his grandmother in 2007 and only started to bottle under his own name in 2013. The tiny plots, scattered around the Pollino Mountains – several of which still have alberello-trained vines – have been tended organically, and the approach in the cellar is completely hands-off. Calabrese’s pure Magliocco Dolce is energetic and a little wild, while his finely chiselled tannins call to mind Nebbiolo.
No one has done more for Cirò than the historic estate of Librandi. The release in 1988 of Gravello, an award-winning Gaglioppo-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, paved the way for wider international recognition of the winery’s Duca Sanfelice Riserva Cirò, which helped shine a spotlight on the denomination. Librandi was also trailblazing in its research into local grape varieties, planted in its experimental vineyard, and was one of the first producers to realise the potential of Magliocco Dolce, evidenced by the release of Magno Megonio back in 1998.
A newcomer to wine, Demetrio Stancati planted French grape varieties on his family’s estate in 1995, because, as he admits, this attracted the attention of journalists at a time when very few people had heard about this wild corner of Calabria. The vineyards of his Serracavallo estate are situated in the windy hills of La Sila, a rugged nature reserve, where large diurnal temperature differences render wonderfully supple wines. Several Serracavallo wines are blends of Magliocco Dolce and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the most original rendition is pure Magliocco Dolce.
Terre del Gufo
Eugenio Muzzillo is fast advancing as a Magliocco Dolce specialist. All 5ha of vineyards on his Terre di Gufo estate, which sit at 500m altitude, have been planted with this variety. As one of the very few winemakers located here, the production of Muzzillo’s Magliocco keeps the tiny, historic Donnici denomination alive. So far, he has been unable to label his Magliocco Dolce as such because – due to a bizarre quirk of fate – only the rustic Magliocco Canino has been officially registered in Italy’s national register of grape varieties. Apparently, official correction is underway – not least because of Muzzillo’s work.