Day 2 in Calabria provided our introduction to the DOC of Cirò, with Francesco Siciliani, who owns the wine estate of San Francesco. There have been vineyards in his family since the 1800s, but he only started bottling wine in 1985, and concentrates on Cirò. The grape variety for the white is Greco Bianco and for red and rosato, Gaglioppo. His winery is a large insulated shed, with lots of stainless steel and a large cellar underneath to accommodate the barrels. There is also a wine shop and wine bar open in the summer for tourists.

Highlights in our tasting were

Cirò bianco 2009 A pure Greco. It was golden in colour, with a rounded, almost nutty nose, and quite a fresh, salty sappy palate, with nice body and fresh acidity. There is no skin contract, but a bit of lees contact.

I was less struck by a white wine that included some Chardonnay as well as Greco.

As for red, best was Cirò Classico 2009, from Gaglioppo alone. An example of how the wine making has improved. Twenty years or so ago, it was only given three or four days on the skins; nowadays the maceration lasts at least eighteen days. Gaglioppo, like Pinot Noir, does not have a lot of colour, and there was a suggestion that the taste of the two grapes was comparable too. It had a slightly vegetal note on the nose, with some rounded perfumed fruit on the palate, and a dry tannic streak. Nicely balanced.

Ronco dei Quattroventi 2007 was a pure Gaglioppo aged in oak for 12 months, a selection of older vines, with a lower yield. It had a lovely ripe nose, with red cherry fruit on the palate, and a touch of oak. A supple palate, with a tannic streak.

Francesco also produces a delicious dessert wine, Brisi, a Greco passito, but not DOC Cirò. The most recent vintage was the 2005 – he doesn’t make it every year, and just 3000 bottles at that. The grapes are dried in a well ventilated area and pressed in December – we saw them later. The colour was golden amber and the wine was unctuously smooth, and quite honeyed. Even better was the 1999 Brisi, it was drier on the nose, with notes of dry marmalade, and had evolved beautifully with elegantly sweet fruit and good acidity.

Before lunch in a lovely original restaurant Max in Cirò Marina we went to Punta Alice, past vineyards that are almost on the beach. And lunch was a multitude of different antipasti, different bits of the pig, prawns and other sea food and some smoked ricotta. Pepperoncino played a big part in the flavour spectrum.

In the afternoon we were back at the wine estate Ceraudo, which is attached to our agriturismo. They also grow olives, so we saw the olives being treated

First the leaves are removed, and the olives washed.

Then they are mashed,

And then pressed, so that the solids are separated from the liquid.

And then the oil is separated from the water.

One kilo of olives contains 45% water; 45% solids or sansa and 10% oil.

And then we were taken for a ride through the vineyards on the back of a tractor – the views were stunning in the autumn sunshine.

Amongst the wines of Ceraudo, there were various highlights, as follows. All are IGT Val di Neto - I am a free man, observed Roberto. He has no intention of conforming to rigid DOC regulations.

Petella 2009, a blend of Greco bianco and Mantonico, was delicate and lightly herbal with fresh pithy acidity and a sappy finish.

Grisara, the vineyard name, was pure Pecorello and delicate and fresh and nicely rounded but without much depth of flavour.

Roberto makes two reds. The first was Dattilio, a pure Gaglioppo. The 2007 was showing better than the 2006,with some elegant structured fruit. It has been aged in old wood for three years, which seems a little excessive.

Petraro, a vineyard, comprises 60% Gaglioppo and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, given 18 months in oak. Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in 1989, when there was a fashion for international grape varieties. Again I preferred the 2007 to the 2006, with its elegant cassis fruit and nicely balanced oak. And we finished with Dorobè, a dessert wine from dried Magliocco grapes, which was unctuously sweet and smooth.

Dinner in the restaurant was a treat, some elegant antipasti, nduja (cured pork, liberally seasoned with pepperoncino) on bruschetta and various other bits of Calabrian pig. Riso de Sibari (the local rice) with a broad bean puree and some seafood –and some tagliatelli with chestnuts and porcini.

And the next morning Roberto showed us an olive tree that thanks to carbon dating, he knows to be 1600 years old. It was truly venerable.

And then we went to the nearby church at Strongoli to see a column which records the will of a Roman centurion from the 4th century BC, leaving a vineyard to his wife and children. This is proof of the vinous history of the region.

I'm off to Paris tomorrow for a couple of days at the Salon des Vignerons Independents, usually a good place to find new wines from the Languedoc - so watch this space, though first I must finish Calabria.


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