Monday, October 26, 2009

The Red Wines of Calabria: Fruity, Funky, and Fabulously Affordable

This month I've been getting to know the red wines of Calabria--and they've surprised me. When I mentioned Calabrian wine to most people--even Calabrians!--they scoffed at the quality of wine produced in this region of Italy. But I liked the rusty funkiness, the fruitiness, and the great value that I found in the wines I tasted. And though these wines came from southern Italy, they reminded me of French wines from Burgundy and the Beaujolais.

Take the 2004 Vintripodi Arghillà ($19.99, Wine Expo) This wine, a blend of Nerello Calabrese and Alicante, has the certain funky pungency that is characteristic in my (limited) experience of Nerello, and reminds me of a good Beaujolais. The wine showed some tawny edges around the dark purple juice at the center of my glass. The aromas were of sour cherry, earth, and funk and the flavors followed suit. This was certainly not a boring, same-old red and I think it would go just as brilliantly with stews as it did with our pasta dinner.

The other Calabrian wine I tried was the 2006 Ippolito Cirò Liber Pater ($17.99, Wine Expo; available elsewhere for $17). Made with a native Calabrian grape called Gaglioppo, I wasn't familiar enough with the variety to know what to expect. What I discovered was a wine that was nicely poised between a Pinot Noir and a Nebbiolo in terms of flavor and style. There were minty, brandied, and currant aromas. Following up were leather, plum, and currant flavors with a long, savory finish with notes of soy sauce. The juxtaposition of the berried, herbal aromas and the savory qualities of the flavors was intriguing and made this wine memorable.

Some may raise their eyebrows at Calabrian wine, but you won't catch me doing it. Give a Calabrian wine a try. They were a delightful surprise as I wrap up my journey through Italian wines. All that's left is Emilia-Romagna--and we'll head there in November.


Anonymous said...

I tried the 2005 vintage of the Liber Pater. The nose was quite delicious but the palate was thin and overly tannic. When I was in class tasting this wine I said that I would have liked to try a new vintage of this wine because it was quite intriguing on some levels.You have confirmed my expectations. Thank you. Here's to Calabria!

Randy Fuller said...

I find your observations on wine entertaining and educational. I've never tried this wine, but I think I'll seek it out.

Tricerapops said...

cheers on this summary - agreed, calabrian wines offer some great alternatives to your basic italian staples, and i found the ones i've had (including the liber pater) to be quite food friendly (esp with italian fare). I had a
2007 San Francesco Cirò from K&L which was quite good and a value at $13.

The Wine Mule said...

Nicodemo Librandi makes a good Cirò at a good price. Librandi is worth looking into--he's a true pioneer in Calabria, and his vineyards are planted with all kinds of exotic vines native to the region.

Tallahassee Wine Guy said...

Thanks for the find--I'm always looking for new, uncommon wines...especially Italian ones. I love the lesser known Italian wines produced in the smaller, lesser-known, southern regions. Calabrian wine sounds like my palate's kind of wine--I'll look for them.

dves said...

Wow! It's a romantic view. A good wine that you really run into.