A little of history
As in the whole Mediterranean area, the vine has a long history in Liguria. Probably, it was imported from the Greek colonies of Marseilles and Nice in VI century. As a rough proof of this, the mast of the vineyard is said carassa in Ligurian dialect. This term is like to come from the Marseille Greek word Karax.
Anyway, the vine has been cultivated during centuries in Liguria, but the steep land has never made its life easy. Just think to the impressive works of terracing in Cinque Terre and in several other areas of Liguria, to understand how hard it is the cultivation of vine in this territory. According to testimonials found in the documents of the XVII century, which Genoa was compiling to collect taxes from its possessions, the vine was prospering in territories such as Porto Maurizio (Imperia) and Taggia, where now olive tree is king.
Liguria has the territorial and climatic conditions to produce wines of great character. As the writer Vittorio G. Rossi says with poetical words, “the wines are made by the stone, by the sun, by the breath of the sea, and they have the scent of dawn in the quiet of July”. The wines of Liguria do not fail to incorporate the characteristics of the territory they come from. A territory which offers an interesting variety of wines, thanks to an extension of about 270 km end to end and the existence of many micro-climates.
A “map” of the Ligurian wines
Imperia and La Spezia are the provinces with the most relevant production. The indigenous varieties are dominating, with a prevalence of white wines. The Vermentino is surely the most common variety, present in both west and east Liguria with four DOCs (DOC is the Italian mark for the wines produced in a determined area according to specific rules): Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Colli di Luni, Golfo del Tigullio, Valpolcevera. It gives life to fresh and tasty wines, with perceptible difference in the various areas.
The Pigato and the simple Lumassina are vines characteristic of the West Riviera, they give rise to wines bearing the same name. In the Eastern Riviera we find the Bianchetta (Genoa and Tigullio Gulf) and Albarola and Bosco, which are the basis for the amazing Cinque Terre and for the rare and famous Sciacchetrà, a charming raisin wine produced in very limited quantity since ancient times. Among the red wines, Rossese and Ormeasco (a synonymous of Dolcetto, a vine common in Piedmont) are the undisputed protagonists. The first one has the best expression in the Crosia and Nervia valleys: the Rossese di Dolceacqua is known from the time of Andrea Doria (XVI century) and was also appreciated, the chronicles say, by Napoleone Bonaparte. It is a generous red wine, which ages well, with little accentuated tannins. Ormeasco gives its best in the Arroscia valley.
The common “Nostralino”
We cannot forget to mention “Nostralinos” in this quick review. They are typical table wines, produced by local farmers from the grapes of the territory, such as vermentino, lumassina or ormeasco. Fresh and pleasant, they have been offered for years (and they still are) in the taverns to pair with local dishes, and the pairing is generally perfectly adequate. The Nostralino is celebrated in many country fairs: famous is that one in Ranzi di Pietra Ligure, held in August.
Fifty years ago the Ligurian production was made nearly exclusively of Nostralinos. Many progresses have been made in all these years, despite the difficulties of the territory. Liguria produces now several wines of absolute value, recognized in the most authoritative guides. The 2012 “Slow Wine” guide (one of the four most popular wine guides in Italy), points out the red wine Solitario 2000 (produced by Terre Rosse of Finale Ligure from rossese and other local varieties) as an example of the great progress and potentiality of Liguria. It is a powerful red, which after aging of eleven years demonstrates fullness and maturity. The “Rossese di Dolceacqua” has gained many recognitions in the last years and it is now being appreciated at a national and international level.
In 2012, the wines awarded the maximum score in the four most popular guides are 15. Among them, there are a couple of Rossese di Dolceacqua, several Pigato and Vermentino (“Riviera Ligure di Ponente” and “Colli di Luna”) the great Schiacchetrà.