Wine Blog

The hidden treasures of Calabria

My aim has been for several years, and still is, to walk in the footsteps of Giuseppe Garibaldi on Aspromonte, where one of his main battles took place in 1862; this after having written my Ph.D. in history, partly on the Italian unification and nationalism. So far, I have not arrived at Aspromonte. However, last week, I went to Calabria again, and more precisely to Strongoli and Strongoli Marina, in the province of Crotone.

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An artist and long-time friend of mine, Savina Tarsitano, invited me to come to Lamezia Terme, Calabria, and to thereafter continue to the towns of Strongoli and Strongoli Marina by the Ionian Sea. We spent a couple of days in Strongoli Marina, where I was introduced by Savina to Piero Romano, Martino Barretta of Gal Kroton, Gian Franco Blandino, and many others. Gal means Gruppo di Azione Locale, which is a sort of group or cooperative giving support to local rural development and works by means of mainly EU funding and funding via the regional administrations.

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Day One, at the agritourism Fattoria San Sebastiano

As always during my visits to Calabria, I discovered new interesting and beautiful places, as well as got to know extremely nice and sweet people. Our first stop last Tuesday afternoon was at the fairly new agritourism, Fattoria San Sebastiano, owned by Piero Romano, where the restaurant is open Friday to Sunday.  He also organizes special events upon demand, as well as produces a local olive oil. He works in close connection with Gal Kroton, of which Martino Barretta is a key figure. My first encounter with Piero and Martino blew me away by the hospitality and their offerings of a wide variety of typical dishes and products for dinner, soon after my arrival. We started off with an aperitivo, while Piero was preparing the different dishes, with the Rosato Spumante Brut R01 from Russo & Longo, a winery in the Serpito locality in Strongoli.  This was then followed by different local cold cuts, mozzarellas, pickled olives, locally produced cheese, beer gelatin, and meat roulades etc. were served in steady succession.

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Another wine of the evening was ’A VITA Riserva 2008 from the local winery ’A VITA. This Riserva 2008 with almost amber-colored edges, while the center of the glass was still mostly ruby red, had the particular aromas of black cherry, wildflowers and smoked aromas that were mentioned in the Corriere della Sera review last year. The tannins, a typical trait of the Gaglioppo grape, were not too dominant in this wine, but rather refined.

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Happy and full of food, wine and laughter, we were accompanied to the apartment where we were to stay, which is owned by PR Immobiliare, just 20 meters from the sea. In the morning it was fantastic to wake up, open the doors to the terrace and have a spectacular view of the beach and the sea. PR Immobiliare rents out different flats in the area, so if you have never been to Calabria, this is definitely a part of the region to discover.

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Day Two

Another full immersion in local food and culture awaited us the second day in Strongoli Marina beginning with a quick stop at the Birrificio Blandino, where Gian Franco Blandino produces beers such as Denis, Janet, and the soon arrival of the Amadeus.

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The next stop was in Torre Melissa, before we again were invited to an aperitivo and dinner at Fattoria San Sebastiano. On this particular Wednesday evening, Piero Romano had outdone himself, offering a complete feast of seafood dishes. It all started out with a long line of antipasti composed of clams, red mullets, prawns, octopus, swordfish, and much more. These antipasti were paired with a Greco bianco wine.

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Thereafter we had pasta with prawns and clams paired with a white Pecorello from Ippolito 1845. The Pecorello is a native vine variety of Calabria, with a fruity aroma mainly from citrus fruits, and a slightly mineral and savoury aroma, as well as taste, generally.

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The main dish consisted of different delicacies decorated in a flowery pattern, and it was paired with a Grisara from Ceraudo. This wine is also made from 100% Pecorello, with an aroma of wildflowers, in addition to the fruity and mineral aromas and taste.

Day Three

On the third day, our last, in the area surrounding Strongoli, we went on a tour to different small towns to visit historical places. Our main stops were Santa Severina with its beautiful castle and main town square, surrounded by the wonderful hills and mountains. The tour continued to Caccuri, where we had a guided tour of the castle and also of the fairly newly constructed nature area Serra Grande with agritourism and an artificial lake above Caccuri. The local Gal Kroton has sponsored these developments.

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A visit in the ’A VITA winery

Being passionate about wine, the best time of the day for me was, of course, the visit to the ’A VITA winery in Ciró Marina that is owned by Francesco Maria De Franco. Francesco started out around 5 years ago, when he took over the family vineyard and began focusing on a biological method and approach. He wants to re-evaluate the local territory, the soil and cultivation of the Gaglioppo, as mentioned in Corriere della Sera on January 31, 2014.

Francesco took us on a tour in his small, but fascinating, winery and talked about his production. We then had the opportunity to taste two of his Rosso Classico wines, still not ready, and one, the 2014 that still had to do the malolactic fermentation. It was very interesting to have this opportunity in order to follow the development of his wines.

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Francesco and his winery are emerging and quite well known in wine circles. When I talked about having visited a small winery in Calabria close to Crotone, sommeliers and other wine friends and contacts immediately asked if it was ’A VITA. Francesco has been mentioned and reviewed in New York Times, as well as Corriere della Sera and la Repubblica, among others.

Before saying goodbye to Francesco and his wife Laura, Savina and I bought an ’A VITA Riserva 2010 and a Rosato 2013. We are excited to taste these wines together with our friends in Florence etc.

All in all it was a great week, meeting new people, seeing new fantastic places, tasting traditional dishes and wine. πŸ™‚

Written by Katarina Andersson and proofread by Susan Holman

Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

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