One of the great pleasures of wine exploration is stumbling upon something new. Every corner of Italy is filled with rare forgotten grapes that wine makers are nurturing and coddling. It’s becoming easier to find ancient grapes and when you stumble upon these gems, you’ll be in for a ‘wow’ moment… and that’s special.
And that’s Gaglioppo, grown all over Calabria, it really shines in the Cirò DOC. And it’s also one of the varieties the Ippolito winery is working to enhance and preserve.
If you’re looking for a new “old” grape to try, Gaglioppo is a pleasing good bet! Let me help you with that pronunciation: gahl – YO – poh.
Photo: Fabio Ingrosso CC By: Wikimedia Commons
Yes Calabria Makes Wine!
This is Italy! There are the 150 or so wineries in the region, mostly smaller and family owned. Their challenge is to show the world the great biodiversity and number of indigenous grapes in Calabria- grapes with a strong identity capable of great wines like Gaglioppo.
Along with its identity, Gaglioppo has found a comfortable home in the Cirò DOC located at the ‘ball of the foot’ of the Italian boot. Vineyards run from the hillside town of Cirò down to the Ionian Sea in a mostly mountainous and hilly area with stunning rocky coasts and not much room for beaches.
What I found astonishing is not only can the grape withstand heat, Gaglioppo actually needs heat to ripen, retain structure and provide fruity and other aromas and flavors. Extremely warm areas can often result in very ripe, fruit-bomb type wines. Not Gaglioppo.
In fact, according to my research that it can “…exhibit some of the same characteristics as Nebbiolo-based wines i.e., full-bodied with dark fruit flavors, good structure and pronounced tannins.” But it has a range of profiles and “…Gaglioppo wines from higher elevation vineyards where Ionian Sea breezes help take some of the edge off the heat and thereby slow the ripening process will exhibit more acidity and spicy flavors, earthy overtones and lower tannins.” Richard Marcis, the Italian Wine Guy
There’s a reason it continues to grow so well in this particular location.
Cantine Vincenzo Ippolito Winery
Ippolito, founded in 1845, is the oldest winery in Calabria. Brothers Vincenzo and Gianluca Ippolito are the youngest of five generations of Ippolito grape farmers and wine makers with a history of creativity.
In the 60s and 70s, their grandfather and father where the first to sell to chain restaurants. They also used postcards to sell wine by mail through an arrangement with American Express. A person would indicate their desired wine then return the card to the winery; the wine was then packaged and shipped via train.
Disclosure: I received this wine as a sample. The method my sample bottle came was a bit more modern than the post card method. I received no compensation for this article and all opinions are my own.
Liber Pater 2016 – Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore DOC – 100% Gaglioppo
The brothers have 70 hectares of vines on their Mancuso hillside plot. Grapes for this wine come from the lower part of that vineyard which lies just above the town of Cirò Marina on calcareous clay-marl soils.
The Process: After crushing, the must soaks 8 to 10 days then ferments and macerates in cement vats for around 7 days until alcoholic fermentation is complete.
Aging 8 months in French barrels using a small portion of new oak barrels and the process is complete.
The Result: In my glass was a brilliant ruby color, not as light as I read the wine could be.
The aromas and flavors were fresh and pleasingly strong: red and black cherry, cinnamon, cardamom and an alluring hint of pine. The wine is medium-bodied and playfully elegant with mouth-watering acidity that subsides to crushed velvety tannins. The tannins are definitely present yet the wine has a soft side and supple texture.
An appetizing and softly bright finish worked just fine with pasta, roasted vegetable bean sauce and aged goat cheese that I paired it with in the photo above. I can also see it with pasta in red sauce with chopped Soppressata di Calabria sausage, just for fun.
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Ciró Gaglioppo is a wine we will definitely uncork when people ask for something medium-bodied and rich with a forward, bright character. We enjoyed this wine and thank the Ippolito brothers for sharing it with us!