Elizabeth Gabay MW
Apr 2015

Wines of Liguria

Liguria lies along the stretch of coast between the French Riviera and Tuscany: a long narrow stretch running between mountains and sea. This combination of mountains and Mediterranean give the region a special character. Not only does the land rise quickly up to the mountains, making agriculture difficult to exist on any large scale, but the topography meant, that until the railways and motorway were built, through tunnels and over viaducts, the numerous valleys running up down from the mountains to the coast meant that communities away from the coast remained in relative isolation. The four provinces of Liguria

The four provinces of Liguria Starting with the western end, the province of Imperia runs up to the French border. Until 1860 this region and most of the French department of the Alpes Maritimes were part of the Kingdom of Savoy. When the French and Italian Riviera was at its height in the late 19th century - early 20th century, wealthy northerners, aristocracy and royalty flocked to the region during the winter months to bask in the mild Mediterranean winters. Hot houses covered the hillsides both in Italy and over the hills around Nice, cultivating flowers for bouquets and corsages. Flowers are still grown in Liguria, the impressive flower displays seen in the Viennese New Year Festivities traditionally come from Imperia, and greenhouses still glint in the sun on hillsides where nothing much else can be cultivated. The picturesque village of Dolceacqua with its beautiful arched bridge made famous by the artist Monet, is one of several  villages in the valleys of the Nervia and xxx which are home to the DOC Rossesse di Dolceacqua. The black Rossesse grape, whose DNA has proved it to be a very close relation to Provence's Tibouren variety, produces wines which can be simple fresh and full of black fruit to concentrated and complex wines which have been compared to Burgundian Pinot Noir when young (the wines develop different more meaty mineral characters with age). Key producers: Terre Bianche, Marccario Dringenberg, Ka Mancini, Anfosso, ....... The two major white varieties for most of Liguria are Vermentino and Pigato. Again, DNA testing has thrown up some surprises to show that they very closely related - possibly even mutations of the same original grape. The Provençal white variety Rolle is also considered the same or a close mutation of Vermentino. However, these grapes are treated as two different white varieties and have their own specific DOC resulting in similar wines made different by terroir and winemaker. Past the city of Genoa and into La Spezia and the region of Cinque Terre. The vineyards here cling to the coastal hillsides and in some places are so steep that the harvest is carried out by lowering baskets of grapes to the waiting boats below. Quaint and romantic - but not helpful in making large quantities of wine, and these largely remain a local treasure.