Saturday, February 6, 2016

Reinvigorating the Almost Extinct, Native Grapes of Calabria

Earlier this week I shared with you food, wine and travel to the region of Calabria.  Our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT) this month is featuring Calabria and all that it has to offer.  We started off the New Year exploring the south and some of the lesser traveled to regions to showcase what makes them special and what the culture is of these Italian regions. 
Beaches of Calabria
Beaches of Calabria by Kov09
Like many wine producing areas within Italy, grapes that were native to a region over the years were replaced with grape varieties that were more productive for winemakers.  In Calabria, wines that were blended were always preferred, but as the focus shifted towards more single varieties many native grapes got lost.  Due to this, many of these native grapes became extinct and some wineries, like Librandi in Calabria, are working to bring some of those native grapes back on the wine scene. 

Unfortunately I don’t recall ever having the chance to try either of these grapes I’m sharing with you today, but I hope one day I can experience some of these native varietals of Calabria.  It’s all about education and to open our eyes to just how many grapes are out there being produced in Italy that many of us aren’t familiar with.

Magliocco grape
Magliocco, also known as magliocco canino, is one of the hidden treasures and red native grapes of Calabria that faced extinction.  Wineries are working further on bringing this grape back into existence and are using it in blends or some are making wines with 100% magliocco.  One of the DOC’s where this grape grows a lot is the Terre di Cosenza DOC.  In other areas such as Scavigna, you’ll find it blended with aglianico and in Lamezia, you’ll find it blended with nerello mascalese, greco nero and nerello cappuccio. 

Cosenza Calabria grape growing
Countryside of Cosenza by Michele Palermo
Magliocco shares very similar characteristics to the gaglioppo grape, one of Calabria’s most popular red grapes.  According to another Italian wine lover and writer, Do Bianchi, “magliocco is a tannic grape with a wonderful roundness to it (when vinified monovarietally), good dark red fruit, and healthy acidity."  Wine Searcher recommends pairing magliocco with spiced pork chops, braised short ribs and zucchini stuffed lamb. 

Mantonico Bianco grape
A white native grape of Calabria, mantonico bianco produces dry and passito style wines.  As a dry wine it takes well to barrel fermentation.  You’ll typically find it grown along the coastlines of Calabria.  DNA results have shown that this grape may be closely related to garganega, most commonly found in the Veneto region in wines such as soave.  Described by Ian D’Agata in his book Native Grapes of Italy, “Mantonico Bianco wines are characterized by strong acid and tannin contents.  The sweet wines are the best, redolent with honeyed tropical fruit aromas and flavors.  Recommended by Wine Searcher to pair with mushroom soup, smoked salmon and zabaglione. 

Has anyone been lucky to find these grapes in your area and try them yourself?

Join us on Twitter this Saturday @ 11am EST at #ItalianFWT to talk about the food, wine and travel to Calabria.  We'd love to hear your experiences or just come to learn more about this southern region in Italy.   Here are fellow bloggers sharing their insight into Calabria:


Culinary Adventure with Camilla – Ciambotta, A Delicious Calabrese Mess
Rockin Red Blog – Calabria: A Rustic Food and Wine Pairing
Cooking Chat - Italian Wine for an Easy Indian Feast
Confessions of a Culinary Diva - Exploring Gaglioppo & Aglianico
Enofylz Wine Blog - Calabrian Gaglioppo Paired with Lamb Chops Calabria Style
Food Wine Click - Swordfish and Ciro from the Land of Scylla and Charybdis
The Wining Hour - Calabria: Sun, Sea and Ciro Bianco

Next month we feature the region of Molise on March 5th and hope to see you again then!