Calabria: A Rustic #Food & #Wine Pairing

Calabria is one of the oldest regions in Italy. Villages were first recorded in what was known in ancient times as “Italy” in 3500 BC. Around 1500 BC two Italic Oscan speaking tribes settled in the Calabrian area. One of these tribes was called Oenotrians, which translates to “vine cultivators.” As is customary, the area changed hands many times throughout the centuries; Greeks, Visigoths, Romans, and Saracens (to name a few) have all laid their mark on Calabria. This month’s Italian Food Wine Travel group is exploring this “toe” of Italy, so let’s learn a little more about Calabria.

Calabria is bordered by Basilicata to the north, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west, the Ionian Sea to the east, and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. It is a land of diverse topography with areas that are highly wooded, three rugged mountain ranges, vast plateaus, numerous lakes, high cliffs and vast coastlines. It is a region of beautiful churches, ruins, art, and plenty of outdoor adventures.

Calabria coast

Calabria topography

Medieval Ruins via
Medieval Ruins via

Calabria is filled with unusual wines. Over 90% of wine production is red with the majority crafted from the Gaglioppo grape. Calabria has 12 DOC’s but only 4% of their annual wine production is actually classified as DOC. Due to the diverse topography of the Calabria region wines in this region vary greatly in style and characteristics. The best known of Calabria reds is Cirò, some believe it is the oldest wine in the world and was used as a celebration wine drunk by Calabrian athletes in the early Olympics. There is not a bounty of Calabrian wines in the US. Thankfully in 2011, Rosenthenthal Wine Merchants discovered Du Cropio winery at a wine dinner in Rome and began importing their wines into the US.

Calabria Du Cropio3

Calabria Du Cropio4Du Cropio “Serra Sanguigna” 2012 Calabria IGT: 70% Gaglioppo, 15% Malvasia Nera, 15% Greco Nero; deep garnet; rustic notes of dried cherries, dried figs, plums, spice notes, and ground espresso beans; rustic quality on palate as well, penetrating acidity with dusty and persistent tannins, full body, very long, dry, lingering finish. If you like rustic Italian wines with a bit of funk like I do then you will really enjoy this wine.


More about Du Cropio from the Rosenthal Wine Merchant web site:

Calabria Du Cropio vineyards4
Du Cropio vineyards

Du Cropio in local dialect means “doctor of agronomy” and reflects the fact that the Ippolito family has long been involved in the growing of grapes in the region.  The estate encompasses a total of thirty (30) hectares, eight (8) of which are on the plains immediately inland from and within the confines of the town of Ciro Marina and twenty-two of which are tucked into the hillsides surrounding the village of Ciro, several more miles inland and at a considerably higher elevation.  The soil, a mix of clay and limestone, is poor with excellent drainage which is reinforced by the steeply sloped hillside vineyards, conditions that are ideal for producing small crops of highly concentrated fruit.  Most of the grapes harvested at the estate are sold either at the time of harvest or as bulk wine thereafter.  Then, the finest wines are kept to be vinified at the estate and sold as “Du Cropio”.

Calabria Du Cropio vineyards2
Du Cropio vineyards

The vineyards are maintained according to organic principles with some of the vineyards now being worked by horse and plow.  At harvest, the grapes are crushed and undergo the primary fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel cuves; then, the wines are ultimately racked into large oak “botte” to age before being bottled.  The wines are neither fined nor filtered and they are left to age further in bottle for 18 months before being released to the market.

Calabria Gaglioppo grapes via Du Cropio
Gaglioppo grapes via Du Cropio

The Calabria economy is based largely on agriculture, producing high quality olive oil, onions, mushrooms, grains, eggplant, figs, citrus and wine. These items are also common to the Calabrian cuisine. It is a rustic cuisine adapted from its Greek roots and heavily influenced by the high humidity in the region. Salting, curing, and smoking techniques are heavily utilized to keep meats from spoiling. It is most common to find an array of smoked or cured meats such as capicola, soppresata and pancetta served alongside fresh olives, artichokes, tomatoes and melons. Being surrounded by the ocean, Calabrians also eat a lot of seafood, with a strong love for sardines. Another key component to Calabrian cuisine is spice. Calabrians add spicy red pepper to most of their dishes.

I chose to pair two Calabrian style courses with the Du Cropio IGT wine; however, in a very non-traditional Italian style, I combined them into one course. Calabrians love tomatoes (especially sun-dried), they eat a lot of pork, and of course pasta is a staple to their cuisine. So I made Calabria Sugo paired with Spicy Calabrian Grilled Pork Chops.

Calabria pork chops

Calabria pork chops4

Let’s take a look at the delicious wine and food pairings my fellow #ItalianFWT friends have discovered:

Culinary Adventure with Camilla – Ciambotta, A Delicious Calabrese Mess

Vino Travels – Reinvigorating the Almost Extinct, Native Grapes of Calabria

Cooking Chat – Italian Wine for an Easy Indian Feast

Confessions of a Culinary Diva – Exploring Gaglioppo & Aglianico

Enofylz Wine Blog – Calabrian Gaglioppo Paired with Lamb Chops Calabria Style

Food Wine Click – Swordfish and Ciro from the Land of Scylla and Charybdis

The Wining Hour – Calabria: Sun, Sea and Ciro Bianco

Please join us this at 10CST this morning using #ItalianFWT as we explore Calabria. Furthermore, join us March 5 at 10CST to explore Molise.

My Song Selection: I have chosen this song by a classic R&B artist to pair with the Du Cropio Serra Sanguigna because it is a classic song with a great vibe and funk.

Get your own bottle of Calabrian wine and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

20 responses to “Calabria: A Rustic #Food & #Wine Pairing”

  1. Such an interesting part of the world. We loved this little shop near the train station when we lived in Chicago; it was called Calabria & featured so many wonderful temptations from the region.

  2. The wine sounds as interesting as Calabria, I found it to be a bit strange, not in a bad way but very different from the rest of Italy and not like Sicily either. Your pairing is wonderful as is the music.

  3. Calabria is a more ‘true’ Italy than the tourist spaces that we all tend to gravitate to. It just seems that way. Loved it when we were there a few years back. Honest food, traditions, people. Good piece. Plus, the bonus? Bill Withers.

  4. I like Italian reds with a little funk–as long as it is a good funk!–so would like this. Sounds like a great meal for the wine!

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