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A Guide to the Greatest Wines Of Calabria, Italy

Ryan Marshall
Last Updated: February 17th, 2023

Calabria is a southern Italian wine region that is best known for producing affordable, everyday wines that are simple and easy to drink. Centuries ago, the region was world famous and exported high-quality wines all over the world.

Calabria was hit hard by the phylloxera outbreak of the 1800s, and the region has never fully recovered.

Adding to the difficult economic landscape for this region is the fact that countries like the United States have become mass producers and distributors of an affordable wine that is fairly high in quality.

A Guide to the Wines of Calabria

In this article, we will take a look at the wines of Calabria, Italy as they are today, and give you some suggestions to try for yourself.

ciro doc

Cirò DOC

The region of Cirò is best known for the production of strong red wines that are full in body and usually feature fairly aggressive and “grippy” tannins.

While a moderate amount of white wine is also produced in this southern Italian region, red wine is much more prevalent and important.

The prominent wine grape here is called Gaglioppo, which many historians believe dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks. There are a number of different variations of Gaglioppo produced in the Cirò DOC, each with different requirements and tasting profiles.

Cirò Rosso is one of the most famous and most prevalent styles of wine produced in the Cirò DOC. These dry red wines must contain at least an 80 percent concentration of the Gaglioppo grape, and only specifically designated grape varietals can make up the other 20 percent.

One of the most popular bottles of this wine style is Tenuta Iuzzolini Ciro Rosso Classico, which showcases all the classic tasting notes that the Gaglioppo grape has to offer, while still offering incredible value at under $20 per bottle.

There is also a separate designation to indicate wines from this region that contain higher levels of alcohol by volume. The alcohol concentration in Cirò Superiore wines must be a minimum of 13.5 percent, which is a full one percent higher than the standard Cirò Rosso wines.

Ippolito 1845 ‘Liber Pater’ Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore is one of the most popular bottles of Cirò Superiore, and is regularly featured on guides to the region such as “Top Wines of Cirò.” At around $20 per bottle, it is a great way to try this unique style of wine while on a budget.

The style of wine produced in the Cirò region that is most prestigious and sought after is called Cirò Rosso Riserva. These wines must be aged for at least two years, which helps the tannins to soften and the overall flavor profiles of the wines to develop.

Perhaps the best example of this high-end style of wine is Librandi Duca Sanfelice Cirò Rosso Riserva, which has grown to become the most popular bottle in the entire region of Cirò. It has received a number of accolades and high marks from important wine critics across the world.

Terre di Cosenza DOC

terre di cosenza doc

The Terre di Cosenza wine-making region is thought of by many critics and experts as one of the most exciting young wine regions in all of southern Italy.

It is an up-and-coming wine region that is working to revive the traditions of high-quality wine-making in the area.

The overall region of Calabria is best known today for the mass production of cheap and affordable wines, though the Terre di Cosenza DOC is working to change that. There are many different styles allowed in this ambitious new wine region.

A total of 15 different grape varietals are permitted for use in the Terre di Cosenza region for the production of single varietal bottles of wine. These include both internationally famous wine grapes, and lesser known grapes that are local to the area.

Magliocco Canino is a rare and ancient wine grape that is only grown in Calabria today. It is the number one wine grape in the Terre di Cosenza region and is the type of wine that is most often associated with the region today.

A variety of different wine styles are permitted for production in this region, including white, rosé, sweet, and sparkling wines. Internationally recognizable grapes including Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have also become popular in Terre di Cosenza.

The most popular bottle of wine from this region that has helped to put Calabria on the map is Cantine Spadafora ‘1915’ Magliocco Terre di Cosenza Donnici. This was one of the first bottles from the Terre di Cosenza region to break through on the international wine market.

Giuseppe Calabrese Terre di Cosenza Pollino is also produced using the Magliocco Canino grape and is another bottle that has helped spread the signature wine style of the Terre di Cosenza DOC all over the world.

Bivongi DOC

bivongi doc

The Bivongi DOC is both the newest and smallest area awarded the DOC designation in all of Calabria.

The majority of wines produced here are either red or rosé, and it is quite rare to find a bottle of wine from this region on the international wine market.

While it can be difficult to find bottles of wine from the Bivongi region internationally, they have become fairly popular domestically. The majority of the wines produced in this small region are consumed locally, and a small amount is distributed throughout the rest of Italy.

Many wine experts believe that this region is one of the next to expand rapidly, as there are a number of different incentive programs created to encourage the distribution of Bivongi wines worldwide.

Cantine Lavorata Bivongi Rosso Riserva is by far the most popular bottle of wine to come out of this emerging southern Italian wine region. It is fairly strong, containing 14 percent alcohol by volume, and received an 88-point score at the Decanter Wine Awards.

Cantine Lavorata Bivongi Bianco is a fairly rare bottle of white wine that contains a blend of equally rare grape varietals. This wine combines the virtually unknown grapes of Ansonica, Malvasia Bianca, Greco Bianco, and Guardavalle and Montonico for a fantastic white blend.

Melissa DOC

melissa doc

The small Calabrian subregion of Mellissa is located close to the much more famous and prestigious region of Cirò, where some of the most popular and highly regarded bottles of southern Italian wine are produced.

While the Melissa DOC is not nearly as famous or well established as the neighboring Cirò DOC, the two regions share a variety of environmental factors including very similar soil compositions and microclimates.

Due to the fact that there are so many environmental similarities between the Melissa and Cirò regions, many wine experts view the Melissa DOC to have huge amounts of untapped potential. The wines produced here are becoming increasingly higher in quality every single year.

There are three different styles of wine permitted for production in the Melissa DOC. The base classification is called Melissa Rosso, which must contain a minimum 75 percent concentration of the dark-skinned Gaglioppo grape.

Rosso Superiore is similar in style to the wines of Melissa Rosso, with the key difference being the minimum concentration of alcohol. Rosso Superiore must contain at least 13 percent alcohol by volume, while the base designation has a 12.5 percent minimum.

Melissa Bianco is the most prestigious and rarest of all wines from the Melissa DOC, and they must contain a minimum of 80 percent Greco Bianco. Greco Bianco is used to make some of the most unique and refined white wines in all of southern Italy.

Librandi Asylia Melissa Bianco is an affordable bottle of Melissa white wine that is one of the most popular bottles being produced in the region today. At under $15 per bottle, this is one of the best white wine values in all of southern Italy.

S.Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto DOC

s.anna di isola capo rizzuto doc

The S.Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto DOC is a small wine-producing area that specializes in red wine blends. Two different styles are permitted for DOC production, which is called Rosso and Rosato.

Gaglioppo is the most important wine grape in this small southern Italian wine-producing region, and the ancient wine grape accounts for between 40 and 60 percent of the blends in the area. White wine grapes are also used in small amounts to balance out these red wine blends.

One of the most famous bottles of wine from this small region is simply named “Dorico,” which contains a 60 percent concentration of the Gaglioppo grape.

The remaining 40 percent is made up of Nerello Mascalese, and the two blend together harmoniously to achieve great balance.

Wines Of Calabria – Conclusion

While the Italian wine region of Calabria may not be one of the more well-known areas in the famous wine country of Italy, there are a number of different unique wines from the area that are definitely worth trying.

There are a number of different important sub-regions within Calabria, including the up-and-coming Terre di Cosenza DOC which is working hard to repair the region’s reputation as a high-quality wine producer.

Also, check out our list of wine regions so you can deepen your knowledge of wine!

About The Author

Ryan Marshall

Ryan is a full time freelance writer who can most often be found on the disc golf course or local coffee shop when not behind a keyboard. He is an avid traveler and lover of all things sports and outdoors. Ryan is also a certified level one sommelier, and is endlessly curious about the world of high end beverages. Writing about wine, coffee, and other specialty beverages has given him a chance to take a deeper dive into his research, and he loves helping people find the perfect drink for their palates and preferences!

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