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Wine from Liguria

Wine from Liguria

Savoring Liguria: Discovering Its Distinctive Wines

The long littoral ribbon of land in the northwestern corner of Italy has been home to vineyards since before the Romans got there, when Etruscans ruled the region and the Greeks referred to someone from there as a ‘ligus’ (λίγυς). In the subsequent millennia Liguria became one of the most extraordinary areas of its size on earth – to this day the third smallest Italian region, it was nonetheless home to the Republic of Genoa, masters of the Tyrrhenian and Venice’s great rival in the medieval and Renaissance Mediterranean. It is also known for some world-famous food, above all of course the pesto alla genovese (which, appropriately for the birthplace of Columbus, is served with pasta and the impeccably New World combo of potatoes and green beans), as well as the chickpea-flour farinata, a host of native seafood dishes, and a rich focaccia tradition.

Geographically the region borders France to the west, Piedmont to the north, Emilia-Romagna to the east, and Tuscany to the east and south. It has an area of just under 5.5km², but has a population of over a million and a half, putting it in the top five regions for population density in Italy. Most of that density is focused on the city of Genoa – a lot of the rest of the region is mountainous and rural, a shield of Alps and Apennines running steeply down to the sea. The region is renowned for its natural beauty, with over a tenth of it comprising natural parks, and the likes of Byron finding in places like Portovenere an earthly paradise. The hills are particularly suited to herb-growing (such as is crucial for the famous pesto) and have wide-ranging and unusual applications for viticulture.

Cantina Lunae
Ligurian Vineyards

The wine

The region is divided into four provinces: (from west to east) Imperia, Savona, Genova, and La Spezia. Oenologically there are 8 DOCs in Liguria – three in Imperia, one of which is in Genova, Savona and Imperia, two in Genoa proper, and three in La Spezia. Most of them are noted for white wines, made particularly from blends of vermentino with two indigenous varieties called bosco and albarola. There are more red-focused areas two however, with those closer to Tuscany using varieties like sangiovese, canaiolo, and ciliegiolo, while those towards the border with Piedmont use barbera, dolcetto (known locally as ‘ormeasco’) and a really intriguing autochthonous varietal called rossese that produces aromatic, herbal, earthy wines. There is also a smattering of rosés and sparklings across the region, as well as a few areas designated IGT.

Starting inland on the northwestern edge is the DOC of Rossese di Dolceacqua, the first DOC to be created in Liguria back in 1972. Located along the Nervia, Verbone and some of the Roja rivers (or streams, really, in the case of Verbone), the area is known for its cultivation of the rossese grape, known as tibouren in French and probably introduced by the ancient Greeks at Messalia, modern-day Marseille. The terrain is mostly flysch, a type of sedimentary layering that combines sandstone with shale, and that in this area is particularly fossil-rich. There is a village called Dolceacqua, but there are several others that are permitted to sell wine under the label according to the DOC rules. These rules also state that the wine must be at least 95% rossese and must be at least 12% alcohol or 13% for bottles labelled ‘Rossese Superiore’.

The second DOC entirely within the bounds of Imperia province is Ormeasco di Pornassio. It makes a classic Piedmontese-style dolcetto wine, medium-bodied with rounded red fruit and great food-matching versatility, within the areas of Pornassio, Nirasco, Armo, and Acquetica.

The largest and most diverse region is the Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC, which comprises virtually the whole of the western side Italian Riviera, from its easternmost point at Arenzano all the way to the border with France. It produces a full range of red, white, dry, sweet, and sparkling, the latter especially from moscato grapes, while the dry and sweet whites are also made from pigato and vermentino and the reds mainly from rossese and a rare local grape known as granaccia (or sometimes alicante). It comprises five official sottozone or subzones – Riviera dei Fiori and Taggia in Imperia, and Quiliano, Finalese and Albanganese (especially noted from its rosé) in Savona and Genova. Lower down the slopes than most of the rest of Ligurian wine, the best examples have a freshness and salinity about them that is the area’s trademark.

To the west of the city of Genoa is the valley of Val Polcevera, a producer of the full gamut of styles especially celebrated for the Bianco di Coronata subzone, a favourite of Stendhal’s during his time in Italy. It’s also noted for its unusual assemblage rules: at least 60% of the wine must consist of vermentino, albarola and the autochthonous bianchetta genovese, while at most 40% can consist of, pigato, bosco, and another unusual local variety called rollo. The resulting wine is notably fresh and intensely aromatic.

The Golfo del Tigullio-Portofino on the other side of the city is the second largest in Liguria. It produces wines of all styles from virtually all the varieties mentioned hitherto, as well as the rare scimiscià variety, all of which have their own very complicated DOC rules of production. Look out especially for the blends from the Costa dei Fieschi subzone.
The Colline di Levanto is where things start to get undeniably Tuscan-flavoured, its principle white grape being vermentino and its principle red being sangiovese. It can be a source of real bargains of freshness and vibrancy, having very similar microclimate and geological conditions to its more famous neighbouring DOC.

That DOC is of course the Cinque Terre, famed for its stunningly beautiful clifftop villages that ends at the town of La Spezia. It is especially known for its whites, made with a mix of vermentino, albarola and bosco, and range from a crisp dry style to the sweet passito and liquoroso styles, the latter of which is a fortified style, a straw wine called Sciacchetrà.
The final DOC, right on the eastern border, is the Colli di Luni, which produces crunchy whites largely from vermentino and a characterful red from the typically Tuscan blend of a sangiovese majority with a minority canaiolo, ciliegiolo and so on. It’s available in riserva form too, with greater oakiness giving it a heft reminiscent of the famous wines to be found over the border.

Liguria is a sometimes overlooked region when it comes to wine, but it deserves another look. Between its expressions of beloved styles and its impossible-to-find-elsewhere native varieties, these maritime offerings range from crisp and zippy to deep and dense, and always set on enhancing a meal.

The breakdown


Location: northwestern border

Climate: warm temperate, Mediterranean

Soils: mainly Marne, flysch, sandstone

Elevation: from very high down to sea level

IGT, DOC and DOCGS: Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC, Ormeasco di Pornassio DOC, Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC, Val Polcevera DOC, Golfo del Tigullio-Portofino DOC, Colline di Levanto DOC, Cinque Terre DOC, Colli di Luni DOC; Colline di Genovesato IGT, Colline Savonesi IGT, Golfo dei Poeti La Spezia IGT.

Main red grapes: barbera, canaiolo, ciliegiolo, granaccia (alicante); lumassina, ormeasco (dolcetto), rossese, sangiovese.

Main white grapes: albarola, bianchetta genovese, moscato, pigato, rollo, scimiscà, vermentino.

Hidden gem: Stendhal’s favourite, the Bianco di Coronata.

About Wine Shop all’Amarone

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Wine Shop all’Amarone in Venice offers an exceptional selection of Italian wines, spotlighting the distinguished Amarone della Valpolicella. In addition to our Amarone focus, we proudly feature select wines from Liguria, showcasing the diversity and richness of Italy’s winemaking regions. Our curated collection is designed to offer wine lovers a taste of Italy’s finest, from the robust flavors of Amarone to the unique profiles of Ligurian wines.

Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM, Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Get the Waterbus line 1 & stop at San Silvestro. We are 1 minute away.

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