The region is a long and narrow peninsula and is 42% mountainous, 49% hills and only 9% plains. The Pollino Mountains in the north separate Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of this area are heavily wooded while others are vast plateaus with little vegetation. Most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries, with the lowest slopes being rich in vineyards and citrus fruit orchards. Olives and chestnut trees appear in the higher regions (1).
Ciro Rosso DOC is a wine that stands out from the rest and is made from 95% Gaglioppo, with 5% of Greco Bianco and Trebbiano Toscano. It can be produced as a Superiore but must exceed 13.5% abv, as well as a Riserva and must be matured for at least two years, and a Classico which must be poduced in the oldest traditional zone. The wines are characterized by their tannic and full bodied nature, good structure, high alcohol content, traditional style and intense fruit presence. They are generally meant for drinking three-four years after vintage, but some take longer for the tannins to soften. Rosés and whites are also inculded in this DOC, produced from at least 90% Greco Bianco and Trebbiano (1).
It is one of Italy's oldest varieties: a wine that some maintain was made with Gaglioppo, call Krimisa, was the reward for winners of the Olympic games. Krimisa took it's name from Cremissa, the ancient name for the city of Cirò, one of three very important Greek cities in what is now Calabria and famous in antiquity for a temple devoted to wine (2).
Recent DNA studies have clarified that Gaglioppo is a natural crossing of Sangiovese and Mantonico. Mantonico is a very typical grape of Calabria and is also home to Gaglioppo. This means that Gaglioppo and Frappato are most likely siblings, which is not unlikely in my view given the characteristics of the two varieties and their wines. Gaglioppo has medium-large to large pyramidal-conical, compact bunches and medium-large, oval berries. Multiple biotypes of Gaglioppo exist: Caparra described a Gaglioppo Paesano and a Gaglioppo Napolentano in 1921. Magliocco, Magliocco Dolce, and Magliocco Canino are also called Gaglioppo at times, but these names properly refer to different varieties and so should never be used for Gaglioppo (2).
Gaglioppo wines have historically been plagued by reddish, orangey colors and the grape's anthocyanin profile explains why. Cyanin and peonin represent over 60% of the total anthocyanins of Gaglioppo. Cyanin and peonin are unstable anthocyanins that oxidize easily, so wines that are loaded with these two pigments tend to drop their color over tiime (2).
Gaglioppo is confined mainly to Calabria and reaches is potentially greatest heights in the area around Cirò, on the Ionian coast, which includes the towns of Cirò Marina, Crucoli and Melissa. Gaglioppo is also used in Calabrian DOC wines such as Bivongi, Donnici, Lamezia, Pollino and Savuto, among others. The climate of Calabria is hot and dry, which helps the Gaglioppo to completely ripen. The vine of the Gaglioppo grape is strong and vigorous, giving fruit that contains an elevated sugar level while maintaining a medium acidity level.
The best examples of Cirò, or of any monovarietal Gaglioppo wine, exude aromas of small red berries and citrus zest, with mineral and delicate underbrush notes that are not unlike a lighter, more saline Nebbiolo wine. When poorly made, it is astringent and completely devoid of fruit.
(1.) Botturi & Meraviglia "An Overview of Italian Wine"
(2.) D'Agata, Ian. " Native Wiine Grapes of Italy"