Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Calabrian Rarity

Anyone been to Calabria?  It's just about the most remote region of Italy, being the toe of the boot, as my simple but charming hand-designed map shows.  The Apennines run right down the middle of the region, leaving just a strip of low-land either side.  This doesn't leave many places for growing grapes (or anything for that matter) and Calabrian wines are a rarity outside of the region, let alone outside of Italy.

Now they are rare, but some of them are very good indeed.  The best reds are made from the local Gaglioppo (yet another interesting and obscure Italian variety), which by reputation reaches its heights in the small appellation of Cirò.  The other appellation that apparently makes good wines from Gaglioppo is Savuto, but it's so rare you're unlikely to ever see a bottle.  Finally right in the tippy-toe in the town of Bianco they make some superb white wines from semi-dried Greco grapes, under the appellation Greco di Bianco.  They are, strong, sweet and honeyed.

Anyway, I've drunk my way all around Italy, but the one place I've not visited is Calabria.  It was just one region too far on our six month tour of the Country.  When sourcing wines for the Italian wine course I'm running, I had to find a Cirò, even though it's the one wine in the course I've never had myself.  Covering the whole Country I needed to show at least one wine from Calabria.  Anyway, after a good search I managed to find the sum total of one Cirò in all of London's wine shops!  I got it at the excellent Vinoteca, located at the bottom of St. John Street in Farringdon.  They've got an excellent style of business; there's a small but really well selected room of wines where you can either buy bottles to take away at an off-license price or you can buy them to drink in, with or without food, for a very reasonably marked-up on-license price.  The food there is superb by the way; the huge belly pork roast a whole gang of us had there for a friend's Birthday a while ago was fantastic.  It's a model you often find in Italy, with blurry lines between wine shops, bars and restaurants.  But I digress...

So last night I was very excited to be having a Cirò for the first time.  It was a bottle of Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo from the producer Santa Venere.  An attractive medium deep ruby colour, the nose was slightly perfumed and really stylish.  In the mouth it was full of fresh berry fruits but with a good grip and a lovely crisp acidity.  Very elegant.  Decent complexity and good length too.  Honestly priced at £13 it was a lovely wine - well worth popping in to Vinoteca for if you're round Farringdon way.

Well, I'm a new fan of the Gaglioppo grape!  We all need to keep trying different varieties - after all, much as they're excellent, red wines aren't all about Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
Santa Venere, Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo 2008 - £12.95 from Vinoteca, St John Street, London

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