On January 7th, 2017, we were talking about artisanal and a sort of new generation of organic Cirò Doc wines at #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream. My guest was Cataldo Calabretta, who is a winemaker in Cirò Marina. I tasted Cataldo’s wines for the first time at Vinitaly last year. Then, last summer in I had the opportunity to visit his winery in Cirò Marina when I was in Calabria for a bit of holiday.
Cataldo Calabretta is the fourth generation of vine growers in his family. He took over the management of the winery less than 10 years ago and has since then also renovated the old cellar. They have also recuperated old cement tanks that they now use for the maturation of their Cirò DOC wines.
They are an organic winery and chose to become so around 10 years ago out of ethical reasons. Furthermore, they do not use any added yeasts, they apply spontaneous fermentations, and try to reduce any filtrations to a minimum.
Vine Growing and Winemaking in Cirò Marina
Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco
Gaglioppo is historically the number one grape variety that is grown in the Cirò area in Calabria. It is a very tannic wine. The training system typically used for Gaglioppo vines in the Cirò area is the head-trained bush.
The Greco Bianco is a grape variety which should not be confused with the Greco di Tufo. It is a native grape variety in Calabria and goes under other names, such as Guardavalle, depending on where in Calabria it is cultivated. It is a grape variety with a high yield, in fact, much higher than the Gaglioppo.
An interesting fact, that Cataldo told us is that varieties such as Greco Bianco and Magliocco often is cultivated in the vineyards together with the Gaglioppo to reduce the level of tannins in the Gaglioppo.
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The Richness of Indigenous Grape Varieties in Calabria
The amazing thing about Calabria is that it is a real treasure when it comes to indigenous grape varieties. It is a region very rich in different very old grape varieties, many of which has gone lost and are still today unknown.
He takes the example of the “Grecanica” area on Aspromonte in Calabria, which nowadays has been reduced to very small vineyard lots on the mountain. In one small vineyard lot, you can, however, see up to 50 different local grape varieties growing. It can be everything from white grapes, red grapes, as well as grapes to be dried (for appassimento), etc.
Cataldo stresses that this in some sense shows how the viticulture tradition in Calabria dates back thousands of years.
The Importance of the Byzantine era in the Cirò Doc area
Generally, the period of the Greek settlers who arrived around the 8th century BC has been considered as important for the heritage of grape varieties and viticulture in Calabria.
Cataldo emphasizes another historical period as very decisive and bringing back the prosperity to the viticulture in Calabria, namely the era of the Byzantine Empire. He says that many grape varieties indeed dates to those years between the 3rd century AD and up to the Middle Ages.
He, furthermore, stresses that through research it has been shown that the Gaglioppo, which often has been considered to have Greek origin, rather is a grape variety with roots in Georgia.
The wines produced by Cataldo Calabretta
Cataldo cultivates the grape varieties Gaglioppo, Alicante, Ansonica, Greco Bianco, and Malvasia. Within the Cirò DOC denomination he produces Cirò Rosé DOC, Cirò Bianco DOC, Cirò Rosso Classico DOC, and Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore DOC.
Cataldo says that a red Cirò DOC wine (100% Gaglioppo) generally has a not too intense ruby red color, an elegant and complex nose, and austere tannins.
Then he furthermore produces Alicante Calabria IGT Rosato (rosé), Ansonica Calabria IGT Bianco, and Malvasia Passito Calabria IGT Bianco. He has also started to experiment with a red Grenache wine.
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Do You Want To Learn More…?
Here I have only given a brief overview of the different topics we covered with Cataldo Calabretta regarding viticulture and wine production in the Cirò DOC area in Calabria. To find out more about this and, of course, about Cataldo’s wines you can watch the replay of #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream below (sorry for the dark images).
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