It has been anything but plain sailing for Calabria’s wine industry. Due to its remote location and the lack of organized collective promotion for its wines, the region has struggled for many years to make a name for itself in the wine market. In addition, the weak local economy has driven many young people away. Until recently, that is, when a growing group of young wine makers started returning to the region and changing the image of Calabrian wines. By focusing on native varieties and perpetuating local winemaking traditions, they are now crafting world class wines which speak volumes about the land and culture of Calabria, but also resonate with current market demand for unique and authentic wines. Their enthusiasm and investment have led to a quantum leap in quality and have lifted Calabria to new heights of wine recognition.
Among this group of wine revolutionists, one name stands out for the research, innovation and huge efforts devoted to preserving Calabria’s wine heritage and traditions – Librandi. Calabria’s largest and most prestigious winery is dedicated to resurrecting the region’s historic grapes. Over the last half-century, the Librandi family have purchased vineyards and invested in modern winemaking technology, while keeping their sights set on the brand’s main goal –and that is to utilize local grapes and maintain a high standard of quality. Their team studies the different native varieties and has built a museum to showcase them to visitors.
“The company was born in the 1950s with Cirò wines”, recounts winery owner Raffaelle Librandi. “Later, in the 1990s, we introduced some international vines, and although some of them proved to be successful and still produce good wines, 80% of the vines we use to date are local, with a prevalence of the classic Cirò varieties – Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco”.
The reason for using mostly native vines is not only the desire to safeguard Calabria’s winemaking heritage but also the varieties’ resilience: “Today, when climate changes are increasingly rapid and evident, the local vines certainly prove to be best suited to the Calabrian terroir”, says Librandi.
Furthermore, Librandi has recognized that authentic wines are Calabria’s key to the international market: “The use of historic regional grapes is our strength. We offer original wines, which cannot be replicated in other terroirs”. The company currently exports to 40 markets outside of Italy with 50% of production sold abroad.
Raffaele Librandi, the grandfather of the latest generation of the Librandi family, started the winery with six hectares of vineyards, as his legacy to his six children. Currently, the company owns 230 hectares of vineyards.
Librandi’s varietal garden
The family’s passion for researching native grape varieties began in 1993 when they planted their first experimentalblock, with Magliocco, Castiglione and Pecorello vines in the Ponta vineyards. The acquisition and development of the Rosaneti vineyards epitomise the company’s strong desire to focus above all on indigenous grape varieties. “There were two fundamental reasons for this, the first being that Calabria’s winemaking heritage is incredibly rich. The second is that this heritage is rather unclear from a scientific, enological standpoint”, explains the owner.
Today, the “varietal garden” belonging the Librandi family can be visited – it contains a collection of native vines that currently embraces around 200 varieties recovered across the region and arranged in a vineyard with a characteristic spiral shape.