Exploring the Toe of Italy’s Boot with Cirò Rosso #ItalianFWT

ItalianFWT Returns to Calabria

Calabria occupies the toe of Italy’s boot. Map courtesy of wikipedia.org

This is our 2nd virtual trip to Calabria with the Italian Food, Wine and Travel Group. My first post with an introduction to the region is here. On this trip, I’m enjoying a key wine and a couple of foods typical of Calabria.

While there are several DOC regions in Calabria, Cirò is the best known. Cirò rules allow white, rosato and rosso wines. Cirò Rosso uses Gaglioppo as its’ main grape. The origin of the Gaglioppo grape has long been a question, although recent DNA evidence indicates it’s likely of Southern Italian origin. We certainly don’t see Gaglioppo based wines from anywhere else today!





Cantine Ippolito "Liber Pater" Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore

Cantine Ippolito “Liber Pater” Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore

Cantine Vincenzo Ippolito “Liber Pater” Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore DOC 2014 ($15 at Sunfish Cellars or online here)
Eye: Clear, medium intensity ruby with a garnet edge
Nose: Clean, medium- intensity nose. Aromas of dark fruit, blueberries, blackberries. Some smoke, pepper, green herbs, rosemary
Mouth: Dry, medium intensity flavors. Medium+ acidity, medium- tannins. Lean, medium body, with medium texture; refreshing. Nice dark fruit, pepper, roasted red pepper, with a medium length finish.

Spicy Foods from Calabria
In doing my Calabria research, I found an interesting sausage which is popular in the region: ‘nduja. Nduja is a pork sausage liberally spiced with hot Calabrian peppers. The name seems related to the French (and in America Cajun) Andouille sausage. Nduja is packed in a traditional intestine sausage casing, but it’s served by spreading the soft sausage paste on bread.  It can also be used in cooking to make a porky/spicy/smoky influence. A couple of good references are available here  and here.

You’ll also find Calabrian peppers in or on cheeses served in the region, with different forms of pecorino (sheeps milk cheese) being available.  Finally, it’s southern Italy, so olives are found frequently at the table.

Cantine Ippolito "Liber Pater" Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore with a regional cheese and charcuterie plate

Southern Italian cheese, charcuterie, and olives served with Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore from Calabria

Cirò Rosso with Spicy Calabrian Foods
Serve the ‘nduja spread on toasted sliced bread or crackers, grate a little cheese on top and broil for a couple of minutes. The ‘nduja flavors are at once meaty and deeply smoky/spicy from the roasted peppers. While the Cirò Rosso had tannins, its deep dark and peppery fruit paired beautifully with the spicy bite of the sausage.  The Cirò Rosso even took just a bit of a chill nicely, which was a nice touch.  The spicy cheese and refreshing olives added to the overall impression of richness and spicyness. Thoroughly enjoyable and just a little different from your run of the mill cheese and charcuterie. Well done, Calabria!

You’ll need a red wine which can handle a Calabrian pepper bite

More Great Calabria Finds From Fellow ItalianFWT Bloggers

Here are some good ideas for Gaglioppo wine in Calabria from my fellow #ItalianFWT writers:

More on Cantine Ippolito from Worldwide Cellars
We’re lucky to have several small wine importers in Minnesota, so we have a surprisingly good selection of wines here, despite the fact that we are definitely “Flyover Country” in the general wine media. Worldwide Cellars imports Cantine Ippolito, and here is what they share on their website:

“Brothers Vincenzo and Gianluca Ippolito are the youngest in five generations of Ippolito grape farmers and wine growers (founded in 1845). Their 100 hectares or so is divided between about 70 on the Mancuso hillside (Mancuso is slang for “left” because as you exit Cirò Marina, you turn left to get to the vineyard), and another vineyard very close to the sea. The clay-marl soils of the Mancuso hillside are planted to Gaglioppo, the clay quickly turning to a slippery-gooey mess when saturated by rain (and I still have the shoes I destroyed in the vineyard to prove it!). Their farming does not purport to be Organic, but is as natural and respectful of the land as possible.

Mancuso is a beautiful vineyard, the hillside sculpted with many expositions, the vines mainly trained on wires except for the old vine block at the very top which is bush-trained (Albarello, or “little tree” as this type of training is called in the south). The exposition is mainly south-east, the vines are fairly densely planted (6k plants per hectare), and the altitude ranges from 150-250 meters making it the highest vineyard in the region. The vineyard is entirely dry-farmed and hand picked. Did I say this is a beautiful vineyard? This is a beautiful vineyard.

Gaglioppo is interesting. Very “nebbiologgiante” according to Vincenzo – a grape that in the right conditions of later-harvests and long maceration can emerge from 20 years in the bottle almost resembling old Barolo. On the other hand, if vinified without extended skin contact, the profile may be more Pinot-noir like.

The seaside vineyard is about 12 ha and is planted to Greco Bianco, used mainly for their white wine “Res Dei”. The area floods regularly in the winter, and the extreme sandiness is a bizarre place to see grapes growing. The afore-mentioned lime present with the sand can fool the eye, evoking almost a snowy terrain. Obviously the white wines from this vineyard show profound marine influence. Waiting at a train-crossing in order to get to the vineyard, the red and white gate is switched down, but no train comes, and the sign “please wait for the train” is full of holes, shot up by an impatient motorist – this is Calabria!

The winery itself is very old, very large, and is located right within the seaside town of Cirò Marina. Interestingly, back say 1000 years ago when these southern coastal towns originally formed, the paese was usually on the hillside, away from the seacoast and hence from marauding navies and pirates. More recently, the “Marina” area is developed, hence “Cirò Marina”, on the sea.

Vincenzo and Gianluca are impressive young men – obviously very committed, very proud. Much of their production is sold locally in the Italian market. They are moving carefully but resolutely to modernize a winery in a very old, very poor part of Italy. That does not mean “modern” wines – macerations average 20 days or more for the reds, achieving extractions with very impressive tannins and dry extract – but it does mean that means are sought to work always better in the vineyards, to grow healthier fruit and to let the vineyard speak through the wines, to develop their export market, to understand what the future will bring.”


5 Responses to “Exploring the Toe of Italy’s Boot with Cirò Rosso #ItalianFWT”
  1. I like the idea of putting together a platter of cheese, olives, and crusty bread with ‘nduja. It would be a great dinner on a weeknight and perfect with a bottle of Ciro wine . . . if I can find another one!

  2. wendyklik says:

    I couldn’t find any nduja in my neck of the woods so I substituted pepperoni. Two days later I was working at the food pantry. While stocking shelves with donations I placed a jar of nduja spread on the shelves. LOL.

  3. Great info on the family you sourced. Seems to be a popular brand in Calabria.

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  1. […] Jeff at Food Wine Click will share “Exploring the Toe of Italy’s Boot with Ciro Rosso” […]

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