Below are my notes from Vino California’s Seminar One: “CALL TO CALABRIA, Discovering the Wines from the “Toe” of Italy’s Peninsula”, that I recently attended at the Skirball Cultural Center. I am sharing what I learned with readers as it fits the Wine 101 mantra: Learn by tasting, and if possible, have experts to lead you. Next week I will share the notes from a second seminar, “FROM LAGREIN TO NEGROAMARO, Exploring the Rare Varietals of Italy.”
Led by Anthony Dias Blue, Editor-In-Chief of the Tasting Panel magazine, this seminar delves into the extraordinary wines hailing from the southern region of Calabria. Celebrating traditional Calabrian varietals such as Greco, Magliocco and Gaglioppo, this seminar will outline the unique features that make Calabria one of the premier wine regions of Italy.
Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino restaurant and Jonathan Mitchell, General Manager of Locanda del Lago restaurant, joined Blue on the panel.
Blue began by saying that the people of Calabria normally drank all of their native Italian varieties and didn’t export their wine until recently. The area is on the tip of the boot in Italy and one of its first settlements.
The Greco grape, according to Blue, was one of the first brought into Italy by the Greeks. The Mediterranean diet also started in Calabria. The Calabrian wines match with Calabrian food – which is mostly seafood as three sides of the area is surrounded by water. It’s not an opulent Italian area, and they have been “eating nose to tail since the second century.”
One final note, Blue said all of the wines were inexpensive; the most expensive is maybe $35, most about $20.
Selvaggio said that these are wines for today, with medium bodies, a fresher style, and, in general, no further aging is needed. The mountain and sea region of the area produces simpler foods like goat and mutton, with seafood being “the blessing of the area.” A poor region, people often left it for other countries. There are no Calabrian restaurants in the U.S., according to Selvaggio, but they do influence the menus in our Italian restaurants. Of note, he said technically, the wines of Calabria will improve.
- Azienda Agricola Ceraudo Roberto Graysusi et. Arg. IGT val di Nieto 2011
Rich rose petals, Luxardo cherries, white pepper – a really rich nose. Acidic, cherry fruit and stems, palate drying, tingly finish. Mitchell suggested pairing with smoky meats. A favorite.
- Statti Mantonico IGT 2010
A honey nose, ripe cantaloupe, deep color, mouth coating viscosity, pear/fruit salad. Selvaggio suggested this wine to pair with a light seafood pasta.
- Azienda Agricola Biologica Santa Venere White Ciro DOC 2012
A steely, mineral, fresh cut grapefruit nose. Acidic and fruit forward with burst of yellow peach and lime. Selvaggio said this was indicative of the food and wine pairing found in the region, and it lends itself to a seafood Carpaccio, maybe with the addition of olives and capers. I was pleased with this one.
- Le Moire SRL Mute DOC Savuto 2011
Obscure grapes were used in this wine per Blue. Dusty dark blue fruit on the nose. Astringent, dry, green pepper, dry/dark plums, palate drying finish. I wanted more fruit on the palate. Selvaggio thought it could stand up to pork or pasta with a good ragu sauce, due to tannins. Mitchell noted that the grape had a thick skin but the wine was not aggressively tannic. Blue thought it was charming. Everyone wanted cheese to pair it with.
- Casa Vincola Crisera SRL Nerone di Calabria IGT 2008
Nice fruit-forward nose, plum, blackberry, somewhat candied. On the mouth it was tart, dark chocolate, cigar. Selvaggio thought that other than a robust fish, this would go well with Calabrian boiled meats – called bollito. Blue liked that the length goes on an on. Mitchell thought it would pair well with items from his restaurant menu.
- Vintripodi Scilla IGT 2010
This wine is a three-grape blend. Brown edge, stewed mushrooms, mint, and plums on the nose. Dark cherry skins, astringent, blackish tannins. (There are 100 plus grape varietals in Calabria per Selvaggio.)
- Cantine Viola Moscato Passito IGT Calabria 2010
Sugared apricots, nut fruit, honeysuckle, French toast and syrup. Honey coating, pears and peach in vanilla bean ice cream. (This was a rare wine per Blue.)