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 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 53, June 2007   
LiguriaLiguria  Contents 
Issue 52, May 2007 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on Twitter 

Liguria

Despite it is one of the smallest regions of Italy, Liguria is a land rich in art, history, tradition and culture, in excellent wines kissed by the sea breeze

 Liguria certainly is one of the regions of Italy having among the most suggestive landscapes of the country, a characteristic which strongly influenced the enogastronomical culture of this land and, in particular, viticulture and wine making. A landscape having no in-between: the sea ahead - coasting the whole southern area of the region - and the mountains behind: two conditions which strongly influenced the gastronomic culture of the region. As it can be easily imagined, cooking in the areas coasting sea is almost exclusively based on fish, whereas in the internal areas the many products of earth and meat play the fundamental role in the table. This difference is also found in the wines of Liguria, where vineyards exposed to the sea breeze, most of the times cultivated in the slopes degrading down the sea, produce wines with an absolutely personal and particular “saltiness”, hardly found in wines produced somewhere else.


Wine areas of Liguria
Wine areas of Liguria

 A land full of charm for many aspects, but also difficult because of its territory, not always easy to cultivate, in particular according to a viticultural point of view. Viticulture in Liguria can be in fact defined, in many areas of this region, as heroic. Most of the times, vineyards - in particular the ones in the “Cinque Terre” area - are cultivated in steep slopes, most of the times with no accessing road or paths, therefore the only way to get there is by feet. In these areas harvesting is strictly done by hand and the grape is transported outside the vineyard by grape-pickers by holding baskets on their shoulders. Despite this could be seen as romantic and charming, as a matter of fact, this is the only way - a forced way - to cultivate and harvest grapes in certain areas of Liguria. A lot of efforts and commitment are however rewarded by the result obtained in cellar, the wines, despite are produced in small quantities, are always distinguished in the Italian wine scene.

 The characteristics of Ligurian territory have strongly determined the development of viticulture and production of wine since the times of ancient Romans. Archaeological diggings done at Luni - the ancient Roman colony established in 177 BC and today belonging to the province of La Spezia, near the border with Tuscany - have however allowed the discovery of cups and amphoras, a sign the wine was present in the eastern area of Liguria since ancient times. The fact the production of wine was not practiced at the times of the establishment of Luni is witnessed by the historian Diodoro Siculo who in the first century BC wrote «in Liguria there are no olive trees and no vines, only woods… a land inaccessible to Ceres and Bacchus». Wine was however produced at the times of Strabonius - the famous Greek geographer who lived in the last years of the first century BC - who wrote in his book about geography «Ligurians consume milk and beverages made of barley, they buy at Genoa oil and wine and the small quantity of wine they make is resinous and sour».


 

 Ligurian enology seems to improve its quality and consideration with Pliny the Elder, who - in his monumental Naturalis Historia - writes «…the wines of Luni are the best ones in Etruria» and also Martial praised the wines produced in Liguria. There are no reliable and evident information on the exact period the vine was introduced in Liguria, many believe it was introduced by ancient Greeks, whereas other believe the cultivation of vine was practiced since the times of Etruscans. Reliable information on viticulture and production of wine in Liguria are dated back to the Middle Age, where written documents mention vineyards in the Riviera di Ponente, in the current territory of La Spezia and Cinque Terre. The importance of wine and viticulture will increase with the development and the prestige of Genoa: from the port of the powerful Repubblica Marinana were in fact shipped goods of any kind, including wine. The ampelography of Liguria was probably developed before the times of the Republic of Genoa, when sailors, coming back from their journeys, cultivated small areas of land in which they planted vine plants gathered during their journeys in the many places of the Mediterranean.

 The viticultural system adopted in Liguria - as a matter of fact, the only possibility offered by the territory - with its vertical vineyards, planted in the steep slopes degrading to the sea, have caught the interest and curiosity of many, also in past times. In particular Andrea Bacci - philosopher, doctor and historian who lived in the 1500s - mentioned in his book De Naturalis Vinorum Historia the suggestive vineyards of Cinque Terre, and wrote the grapes of this land «have a great value because of the roughness of the territory, because they are produced in limited quantities and lack of any excessive humidity». Andrea Bacci also mentioned two particular wines produced in the Cinque Terre, the precious amabile - produced with Albarola grape - and the more common razzese, both produced by interrupting the fermentation after few days, therefore poured in small barrels and loaded in ships: thanks to the effects of the movement caused by the sea during the journey, the wines improved and become better than they were before.

 A fundamental contribution to the history and the varieties found in Liguria and the wines produced in this region, was offered by the important book of count Giorgio Gallesio “La Pomona Italiana”, published at Pisa in 1817 and in which is found, for the first time, a detailed description of the grapes found in Liguria and completed by detailed color pictures. The work of count Gallesio is still today considered an essential reference book for the study of ampelographic and wine making history of Liguria. In La Pomona Italiana are widely mentioned Vermentino, Albarola (a grape called Bianchetta in Genoa) and the now rare Rossese Bianco. The production and development of viticulture in Liguria has been strongly determined by the environmental conditions and by the territory which, because of its characteristics, does not allow wide cultivations, indeed small and difficult. For this reason, still today the viticultural condition in Liguria, despite it is of excellent quality, it mainly made of small wineries and with pretty limited productions.

 

Classification of Liguria

 The classification of wines in Liguria is regulated by the quality system in force in Italy with D.P.R. n° 930 of February 12th, 1963 and law 192 of 1992. The system provides four quality categories classified, from the lowest to the highest level, as Vini da Tavola (Table Wines), IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica, Typical Geographic Indication), DOC (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata, Denomination of Controlled Origin), DOCG (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita, Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) and, DOCG con indicazione di sottozona (DOCG with indication of subarea). In Liguria are currently defined 8 Denomination of Controlled Origin areas, whereas there are no DOCG areas. The DOC areas of Liguria are: Cinque Terre and Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà, Colli di Luni, Colline di Levanto, Golfo del Tigullio, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Rossese di Dolceacqua or Dolceacqua Rossese, Val Polcevera - which includes the sub-denomination Val Polcevera Coronata - and Pornassio or Ormeasco di Pornassio.

 

Production Areas

 In Liguria viticulture is practiced along the coast of the sea and in most of the internal areas of the region. In Liguria are mainly produced white wines, in particular in the central and eastern areas, whereas the production of red wine is lesser and mainly made in the western part of the region. The most important grape of Liguria certainly is Vermentino, found in most of the white wines, whereas the most common red grape of the region is Rossese, once defined as Nebbiolo of Liguria because of its low quantity of coloring substances - a characteristic also found in Piedmont's Nebbiolo of Langhe - and the capacity, in case it is vinified with quality criteria, of making good bodied wines. The main white berried grapes of Liguria are Vermentino, Pigato, Bosco and Albarola, whereas the main red berried grapes of the region are Rossese, Dolcetto - here known as Ormeasco - Ciliegiolo, Sangiovese and Barbera.

 

Cinque Terre

 Cinque Terre takes its name from the five coastal towns along the Ligurian Sea, in the Eastern part of the region in the province of La Spezia. The wines of this Denominazione d'Origine Controllata are produced with the grapes cultivated near the cities of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarolo and Riomaggiore. The viticultural landscape of Cinque Terre is among the most suggestive ones which can be observed: vineyards planted in steep slopes, in terraces degrading down to the sea. Harvesting is made difficult also because of the reduced access possibilities to vineyards, which can be reached only by narrow paths and therefore only by feet, the grapes, after the harvest, are loaded on the shoulders of grape-pickers and transported outside the vineyard. This harvesting method, despite is still in use in these areas, has been recently replaced in some vineyards with the introduction of rails on which run small carriages allowing an easier transport of grapes.

 The wines of Cinque Terre are produced with Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes, from which are obtained dry wines and the special, as well as rare, Sciacchetrà. According to a viticultural point of view, the most representative town of Cinque Terre is Riomaggiore, where are defined the three sub areas of Costa de Campu, Costa dà Posa and Costa de Sèra. Dry white wines of Cinque Terre are medium bodied, characterized by a good crispness and a very personal saltiness given by the vicinity to the sea. The king of Cinque Terre is Sciacchetrà, a rare and excellent sweet wine produced with dried grapes. Sciacchetrà - locally and historically called rinforzato, or, in dialect, refursà - is produced with overripe grapes allowed to dry in aerated rooms, in order to favor the loss of water and the concentration of juice. The grape is then crushed and vinified, and at the end of fermentation, is obtained a sweet wine of rare elegance. Sciacchetrà must age for at least one year before commercialization, three years for the riserva style. Sciacchetrà represents one of the most rare sweet wines of Italy and, besides being magnificently consumed in meditation, is an excellent matching with desserts, in particular with almonds and dried fruits, or with piquant and hard cheese.

 

Other Production Areas

 In the production of Ligurian wines - mainly made of white wines and grapes - are distinguished three red grapes and from which are produced interesting wines: Rossese, Ormeasco - name with which is called Dolcetto - and Ciliegiolo. In particular Rossese, a grape today considered autochthonous of Liguria but probably introduced from France, is the absolute protagonist of the wines of Dolceacqua. Called in the past Nebbiolo della Liguria, certainly not for a supposed genetic analogy with the famous grape of Langhe, Rossese produces red wines in which are mainly characterized aromas and flavors of wild berries and mild tannins. Ormeasco is mainly cultivated in the recent DOC area of Pornassio, where it also is produced, with the same grape, Ormeasco Sciac-trà, a wine with a pale red color which should not be confused with Cinque Terre's Sciacchetrà. Ciliegiolo is mainly spread in the central and eastern areas of Liguria and with which are produced the red wines of Colli di Luni, Colline di Levanto, Golfo del Tigullio and Val Polcevera DOC.

 The most characteristic white grapes of Liguria certainly are Vermentino and Pigato, most of the times used alone for the production of table wines. Both Vermentino and Pigato offer good examples of wines in the Denominazione d'Origine Controllata areas of Riviera di Ponente, in particular in the areas between the cities of Savona and Imperia. As for Pigato, famous is the one produced at Albenga, in the province of Imperia. In recent times good results are being obtained in the DOC areas of Val Polcevera and Tigullio for the revaluation of Bianchetta Genovese, name with which is called the white grape Albarola. A Ligurian area of enological interest is Colli di Luni, where are produced both white and red wines. In this area - which extends to the northern areas of the province of Massa Carrara, in Tuscany - the most common white berried grape is Vermentino, used both for mono varietal wines as well as for the production of Colli di Luni Bianco, to which it is usually added Trebbiano Toscano and other white berried grapes. Colli di Luni Rosso, an interesting red wine in its best representation, is produced with Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Ciliegiolo, Pollera Nera and Cabernet Sauvignon.

 




 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 53, June 2007   
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