Calabria:
The Tip of the Boot

History and Tradition

The very first name of this region was surprisingly enough, Italia. The name was either derived from the Italic tribes who first inhabited the region or from the land's geography, wood rich mountains full of vituli or caves. In later times the area was known as Brutium before being colonized by the Greeks and then re-named Magna Grecia or “Great Greece”. The name was eventually changed to Calabria in the 7th century A.D., when the Byzantine rulers politically joined the region with the Salentine Peninsula which already bore that name.

Traces of ancient colonization tell a story of subsequent cultures and civilizations that lasted centuries. In addition to such ancient ethnic groups as the Achaeans, the Locris and the Brutians, there are traces of Arabs, Berbers and Gypsy tribes along with the Indo-European people

Other cultures that left visible traces of thire passages through this southernmost tip of Italy (identified as the toe of the Italian "boot") include Vandals, Goths, Longobards, Slaves, Bulgarians, Armenians, Dalmatians, Normans, Bourbons, Catalans, Spanish and Jews.

The Romans, of course, ruled on improving the territory by organizing agriculture, building roads and founding cities such as Cosenza. At the same time though, the Romans contributed enormously to the decline and decimation of natural resources by claiming whole forests ship construction.

Almost bringing history alive, the Grecanici are a people still living today in small communities spread along the slopes and the fiumare (dry rivers) of the Aspromonte. They are very protective of their ancient language and traditions and trace their roots to the Esicasti and the Speleoti monks or alternatively to the heirs of Odysseus and the survivors of the Trojan war.

The Wines

As in other southern areas, the Greeks were the first to introduce many grape varieties and winemaking techniques to Calabria. The indigenous people became so adept in the art of vine cultivation and fermentation that soon the wines produced in the colony were considered better than the ones made in Greece. The area was called Enotria or Land of Wine, a definition that later was extended to much of the Italian Peninsula. The Cremissa, a wine from Kremisi, a center between Sibari and Crotone, was used to toast the victorious athletes at the ancient Olympic games.

Though it might be impossible to prove Cirò, a wine produced in the place with the same name in the red, white and rosé type, is believed to be the oldest wine produced in the world. Archeological findings in the area include an ancient “vinoduct”, a system of pipes that carried wine from the production area to the Sybarites dwellings.

Today, Cirò is the major DOC produced in Calabria both for quantity and quality. Other notable wines include Melissa that comes in white and red varieties and the Greco di Bianco, an amber-colored sweet dessert wine produced around the town of Bianco.

Greco is the most used grape in the region and finds his way into the nine white DOC varietals in either significant or predominant quantity along with two other almost ever-present Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca.


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