Calabria's Gaglioppo

April 1, 2009

Admittedly, the section in your favorite wine store that houses the Italian wines from the region of Calabria will be very minute. For many years, the only DOC wine found commonly in the United States was Ciro; and the producer synonymous with this grape was Librandi. This isn’t suprising since Calabria is probably more famous for growing figs and olives, rather than grapes.

Six years ago, I reported to you about a dinner in Buffalo, NY that highlighted a Calabrian wine with its main grilled meat course. That wine was Librandi’s Gravello; a wine that blends the indigenous gaglioppo grapes with cabernet sauvignon. It displayed the typical cherry notes of any gaglioppo-based wine, however complexities of plums and spices were also evidenced.

The gaglioppo grape is a very ancient one. It’s most famous wine, Cir? is said to have been used as an offering to the gods by the athletes that had won early Olympic games. Actually, this wine was used again in Mexico City during the 1968 Olympics. It was the wine that accompanied the athletes’ meals during the competition.

There is only good news coming from Calabria.

Librandi’s Gravello continues it excellence. It won another Tre Bicchieri (3-Glass) Award in 2008 for its 2005 vintage that exhibits an elegant wine with chocolate and tobacco nuances (probably due to the 30% cabernet sauvignon in its blend).

The quality of all the wines coming from this region has improved dramatically since I first tasted the Gravello 6 years ago. This is mainly because of modern practices in gaglioppo’s vineyards. At least 30 producers had submitted their wines to Gambero Rosso in 2008 to be evaluated.

It was again in Western New York that I tasted another example of a gaglioppo-based wine recently that caught my attention. Passport Wine & Spirits has a surprisingly great variety of Italian wines in its Clarence store. During a recent tasting of Italian wines, I tasted a wonderful example of the newer, higher quality wine from Calabria.

Antonio and Alberto Statti are two brothers producing wine in the Lamezia area of Calabria. They focus on producing quality wines that highlight the characteristics of this area’s terroir. The Statti 2006 Calabrian IGT Gallioppo Rosso is delicious. It has an intense ruby color with a clean, cherry taste. This very high quality every-day wine is meant to be consumed young. Its medium-bodied feel and fresh taste characteristics make it a very versatile wine at the dinner table.

Calabria, with its ancient roots, also has an exciting future ahead of it. Watch for new white wines being made there with Moscato and Greco di Bianco grapes, as well as red wines made from the ancient grape, Magliocco.

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