Calabria and Librandi: the Mediterranean in a bottle

The Librandi winery's scientific studies create stunning wines. Learn how Librandi has accomplished their wine production incorporating a scientific approach.

By Lele Gobbi
Fri, Dec 04


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In contemplating the Calabrian territory, one notices almost instantly the complete lack of flat areas. Calabria is a predominantly mountainous region with its own geological and morphological individuality, where mountains are characterized by softened, flattened ridges, and harsh valleys, where at the bottom we see valley beds covered with debris of ruined torrents (smoking). 

Calabria is a fascinating strip of land between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Sea, an exuberant kaleidoscope of traditions, landscapes, and emotions in which local art and culture write some of the richest pages of the history of the Mediterranean basin. Indeed, this is a coastline where everything is possible, where the cold winds of the Sila mingle with the warm Sirocco breezes, and where natural and social differences remain miniscule and intentionally overlooked.

Agricultural development remains difficult thanks to the mountainous nature of the terrain, despite the remarkable works of land reclamation and mountain arrangement.  These efforts have paid off more in coastal and half-plain areas, allowing greater development of specialized crops like citrus fruits, olive trees, cereals and grains, vegetables, chestnuts, figs, and of course, vineyards.  This specific area is also home to the most significant Italian germplasm tank collection

Local vines are ancient, mentioned all the way back to Greek explorers, who upon landing in the region in the 7th century BC, called the area Enotria (Oinotròi), expounding upon its unique fertile and productive characteristics.   

The most propagated vine is the Gaglioppo, although the vine is also called with several other local variations upon the name.  With a look to the past and eyes on the future, the Librandi family maintains solid roots to the traditional aspects of this vine.  The late Antonio and his brother Nicodemus have undoubtedly created a heart of this regional wine galaxy, around which all other cooperatives, consortium and small craftsmen rotate. 

Their cellars were constructed based on the following principles: disciplined management of the vineyards, commendable sense of belonging to the territory, and a vibrant credibility of several labels. Today, their children Raffaele, Paolo, Francesco, and Teresa continue the family’s activity with extreme humility and sense of duty, aware of having undertaken appreciable life experiences and wine-making responsibilities that travel beyond regional boundaries.

Librandi's successes are well-deserved, but certainly haven’t been won easily.  Their triumphs are clearly the result of exhausting work, and remarkable investments in research and productive innovation. The fundamental stages of analysis and experimentation began with prof. Attilio Scienza, and continue today with the precious assistance of Dr. Maria Stella Grando (IASMA), Dr. Donato Lanati (Enosis Meraviglia di Fubine), Dr. Anna Schneider, and Dr. Franco Mannini (Institute of Virology CNR Turin).

Their research and development includes:  

- screening and collection of native vine varieties, with the aim of discovering and replanting at least 200 of the regional vine varieties, including Magliocco, Gaglioppo, Mantonico e Greco Bianco vines.  The idea is to divulge and extrude as much information about the life cycles of these vines in order to make the planting and maintenance process a guaranteed success.

self-fertilization and selection of the finest genetic and genotypes of these grapes, like the Gaglioppo and the Magliocco Dolce.  The end result here should be for future inscription in the National Catalogue of one or more new vine varieties, and to strengthen at the links between wine and territory.

- genetic and health improvement of the Gaglioppo, Magliocco Dolce and Pecorello vines via clonal selection.  The aim here is to not only identify the growing habits and potentials of these vines, but also to create a database of all the vines enological and agricultural peculiarities.

- the study of the Gaglioppo’s interactive behaviors and the identification of the most suitable rootstock within Calabria’s inner pedoclimatic environment.  This whole process should help deepen the understanding of gene expression at work in vineyard graftings, and provide a global view of the molecular processes, all working within conditions of water scarcity.

It is precisely in the spectacular Tenuta di Rosaneti, purchased in 1997, that I was bewitched by Librandi’s impressive corporate biodiversity. Located between the municipalities of Rocca di Neto and Casabona, the vineyard is the flagship of the entire company's extensive wine production. An exceptional view of vineyards and ancient olive groves (measuring 155 hectares and 80 hectares respectively), of vegetable gardens and orchards, of glorious, gnarled oak and carob trees. 

Peaceful views of ponds, pastures and steep cliffs - together with my hosts, I'm in the heart of an authentic oasis, where everything seems to meld and blend with each other in a seamless rainbow of lights and colors. In essence, a mini-Calabria, where all these fantastic natural elements are tied perfectly to each other eternally, by the intense sea breeze gently and eternally cradling this land.

Tasting Notes

Duke San Felice Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva DOC (1995-2014)
Vintage 2014:  scents of Mediterranean maque, electrified juiciness of freshness, tannin flavors that initiates considerable development.

Vintage 2005:  notes of liquorice, thyme, mulberries and cherries; fresh and vital mouth with discreetly long and brackish closure.

Vintage 2000:  intense, original aromatic mixture of fruits preserved in alcohol, and porcini mushrooms; flavor and sweetness well-blended on the palate; more captivating than complex.

Vintage 1995:  deep, rich aromatic expression: medicinal herbs, dried flowers, moist earth then turning into black fruits, and cocoa.  Elegantly spicy, able to alternate between freshness, juice and flavor so superlative!


Magno Megonio Val di Neto Red IGT (2004-2015)
Vintage 2015:  vinous, but with lots of beautiful fruit. The palate combines tension and flavor: a young bottle with great prospects.

Vintage 2011:  scents of floral matrix, light-weight in mouth, enjoyable in flavor but closes too fast with the tannic part.

Vintage 2009:  centered on a sweet, ripe fruit, combines warmth and flavor in one sip, enveloping and well modulated.  Final tonic, contrasted, salty, with extremely decisive personality!

Vintage 2004:  a aromatic profile that's a bit dark, flavorful palate and pronounced tannin. Juicy with ease and good balance on the final.


Gravello Val di Neto Rosso IGT (1999-2015)
Vintage 2015:  slightly "sweetish,"  the mouth reveals roundness and flashes of energy. Discreet sapidity in the finish with a strong-willed tannin.

Vintage 2006:  beautiful floral and iodine notes, palate begins with crunchy fruit and plays on juiciness. More compact that end, but contagious.

Vintage 2004:  fragrance and definition!  Range of frank, exuberant scents: ripe plum and black pepper. Wide gustative spatiality and discreet mineral trace.

Vintage 1999:  blackberry and citrus fruit jam. Palate from imposing mass, evident tannic texture with a wider extension than infiltrating.

Notes: In bold the best vintages of each vertical tasting

Learning about Calabria got your travel bug activated?  Be sure to check out Filippo Bartolotta's exploration of Tuscany's Montalcino region here.  And of course, there are wines to be tasted and explored as well, which Filippo's doing here - check it out and get inspired for both travel and wine perspectives!

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