Words & Wine with Luigi
Even though I have traveled to Italy many times, I have not spent a lot of time in the southern part of the boot-shaped peninsula. In an effort to get more acquainted with some of the southern regions, I decided to meet up with the Calabrian Luigi “The Handyman.” Now, if you don’t know Luigi, you should. He is known for his role with the Gotti Family in the television reality show, “Growing up Gotti.” He was also in the 2014 “Growing Up Gotti: Ten Years Later” anniversary special. However, to me, he is known as a neighbor, a friend, a paisan, and actually a “handyman!” While we have had drinks and shared a meal several times before, this time was different. We wined and dined at one of our favorite neighborhood spots, Wild Honey, where I wanted him to reflect on his hometown and share with me what he deemed special about Calabria.
Luigi, born Francesco ‘Luigi‘ Tridico, grew up in a town called Cirò. Cirò Marina is a coastal town in the province of Crotone, in Calabria Italy. Cirò is famous for its wine of the same name. Luigi lived there for 13. Before coming to the U.S. in the 60’s, he also lived in Milan for a short time. When asked about his hometown, Cirò, his face lit up as he spoke affectionately about the “goodness of the Calabrian people, despite it being a tourist town.” That same “goodness” applies to Luigi. He is very warm, easy to talk to and genuine. However, he also had fond memories and praise for the beautiful beaches.
As I have a love affair with Italy and intend to visit Calabria soon, I inquired about the things I must see when I visit. He said there are many things to see, including the Duomo, of course. Luigi ranted and raved about the stunning beaches of Tropea and he also spoke highly about the marvelous mountainous and historic region, La Sila. Between the way of life, the people, the beaches, the wine and the food, Calabria is certainly a place to visit.
While Luigi and I speak about wine all the time, including Cirò, I had not had the opportunity to taste it until this point. Interestingly, Calabria does not produce any DOCG wines. Instead, it has 12 DOC regions. Only a small percentage (4%) of the yearly production is classified as DOC wine. Cirò, Calabria’s star DOC wine, is made from the indigenous Gaglioppo grape. Cirò is produced as a bianco (white), rosato (rosè) and rosso (red), which is the one that has the most acclaim. Cirò Rosso must be made with at least 95% of the wine using Gaglioppo grapes. The remaining 5% can be Trebbiano Tuscano or Greco Bianco grapes. There are five additional designations for Cirò Rosso: Classico, Superiore, Classico Superiore, Reserva, and Classico Riserva. The Riserva must be aged for at least 24 months.
Luigi expressed to me that, when he thinks of Cirò, he thinks of “the place where I was born, my motherland and for me, there is no place better than that.” The wine reminds him of his town and the quality of life in Calabria.
The Wining Hour Selection: Cirò
As we were discussing Calabria, it was only fitting that we sip on a glass of Calabrian Cirò. We tasted a 2010 Casa Vinicola Criserà Cirò Rosso. We paired this Cirò with traditional Italian antipasto consisting of salumi, formaggio, olives and bread. This wine was ruby red in appearance and had a pleasant, warm, spicy bouquet. There was a slight tannic taste with hints of liquorice on the palate. This wine was very tasty and could certainly hold its own with meat and game dishes. For me, this wine was a surprise, as it is not one that you hear about too often. However, for Luigi, it was just what he expected of his hometown wine. He described it as “a little rich and tasty, delicate, a little sweet, but balanced. The perfect table wine. Cirò is better for me.” Giovanni, who works with The Wining Hour, also enjoyed the wine. Although a native of another southern Italian region, Sicily, this was his first encounter with Cirò. He referred to it as a “delicious surprise.” So we liked it, and it was clear to see why Luigi likes it.
I suppose, on one of my next jaunts to Italy, I have to spend some time in Calabria. At the very least, I will have to buy more Cirò.
Have you ever been to Calabria? What was notable to you? Have you tasted Cirò?
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