The toe of the Italian boot, Calabria is an overwhelmingly mountainous region with marked variations in microclimates between the warm coastal zones of the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas and the chilly heights of the Sila and Aspromonte massifs.
Wine from Calabria
While the terrain makes grape growing a challenge, there are two noteworthy wine grapes, Gaglioppo and Greco. Both originate from Greece, which is appropriate given that the Calabria region was a favorite place for ancient Greek adventurers.
Gaglioppo. The wine made from the Gaglioppo grape is called Ciro. Ciro is one of the oldest named wines in the world, with a winemaking history stretching back thousands of years. Ciro is a medium bodied spicy red wine that is fairly high in tannin. Ciro is considered the best wine in Calabria, and it has a DOC designation. Ciro typically can age for up to five years. But some do well aging as long as 10 years.
Greco. The wine made from Greco is called Greco di Bianco. It is a rare dessert wine made from partially dried Greco grapes. The wine is known for its herbal and citrus flavors and is considered one of the best Italian sweet wines.
Food from Calabria
Peppers. Peperoncino Cancariello, pipariellu, pipazzu, pipi vruscente: these are just some of the local names for peperoncino, the most important ingredient in the culinary heritage of Calabrian food. Whether long or round, red, orange, yellow or green, fresh, dried, or crushed, it’s difficult to find a local specialty here that doesn’t contain chili pepper.
Originally from the Americas, chili pepper found its ideal habitat in Calabria, although it may seem a paradox that there is relatively little commercial cultivation of this crop here. Everybody grows it at home, either in the garden or in a pot, and everyone has a string of chili peppers hanging on a door or at a window.
Eggplant. The name melanzane alla parmigiana, or eggplant parmesan, sounds like it comes from Parma. But it was actually invented in Calabria and is a typical Calabrian food. Calabria’s dry climate, high temperatures, and nearly calcium-free soil make the region ideal for growing eggplants. The name melanzana derives from the Latin malum insanum, which translates as “the fruit which makes one crazy”! Perhaps this is why until the late 19th century, the eggplant was viewed with great suspicion in central and northern Italy. Today, it is enjoyed throughout the country.
Murseddu. Most Italians consider breakfast to be a brioche and a steaming cappuccino, but the Calabrians insist on a cooked breakfast called murseddu. It consists of a ragu made from pig and calf’s liver cooked slowly in tomatoes, herbs and hot red pepper. It is then stuffed in the local pita bread.
Bergametto. Despite numerous attempts to export them to other areas in Italy and the world, bergametto, or bergamot oranges, thrive only in Calabria. Bergamot oranges have a smooth, thin peel, an acidic flavor, and an intense scent. They look like an orange, but their color ranges from green to yellow, depending on how ripe they are. Their essential oil is used not only to flavor liqueurs, tea (such as Earl Grey), sweets and drinks, but also in perfumes and cosmetics.
If you’ve been to the Calabria region, we’d love to hear about your experiences.