Cinque Terre Wines: Vernazza and Vernaccia, and Sciacchetrà
Trekking in the Cinque Terre is big today. But winemaking has been one of the Cinque Terre’s main industries since Antiquity. About 650 years ago the effusive Italian poet Petrarch described the district’s “vineyards illuminated by the sun’s benevolent eye and much loved by Bacchus.”
Vernaccia Wine from Vernazza
Local pride in the Bacchus business is big to this day: around the handsome seaside resort of Vernazza, everyone insists that the village gave its name to the grape varietal Vernaccia.
Vernaccia – the grape – was transplanted to San Gimignano in Tuscany in the 1300s and is still grown there today. Because Tuscany is Tuscany – Italy’s most famous and fashionable region – everyone knows about San Gimignano’s Vernaccia wine. Because Liguria is a geographical mystery to many outside the region, and relatively unknown compared to Tuscany, few people other than locals know that San Gimignano’s famous wine originated in Vernazza.
An interesting statistic to ponder as you trek through the grapevines: of the Cinque Terre’s approximately 5,000 residents today about 700 belong to the local cooperative winery. Just about every family bottles its own private stock.
White wine is the mainstay of the Cinque Terre, and is covered by the D.O.C. quality label.
Sciacchetra’, Dessert Wine from the Cinque Terre
The pride of the Cinque Terre, though, is sweet, honey-hued Sciacchetrà dessert wine. It’s made from grapes dried for up to 40 days in one of the countless, breezy old stone cantinas that seem to sprout from the hillsides wherever you look.
If you’re lucky you might meet a winemaker along a vineyard path willing to part with a bottle or two of this rare wine. The price will raise the hair on your arms: about $40 or more for half a liter (a little more than half a quart).
Why is Schiacchetrà wine so expense? Easy: It takes 45 pounds of fresh grapes to make 15 pounds of dried ones, from which the winemaker extracts a single bottle of Sciacchetrà. The wine should age for at least 6 years. Good vintages can age 10, 20, even 30 years.
Grape Harvesting Season in Cinque Terre
The grape harvest season is a perfect time to visit the Cinque Terre. The whole of the region is planted with vines, but the Corniglia-Vernazza-Monterosso section of the coast hiking trail is the main wine-growing area. In September and, sometimes, in October, it is overrun by busy grape-pickers.
Harvesting is still done by hand—there is no room for machinery. Once upon a time vineyard workers would carry their wicker baskets for miles up and down ladder-like trails that are a challenge even when you hike on them unloaded. In the last 20 years, however, the Cinque Terre cooperative winery (and some other, independent grape-growers and winemakers) has installed several dozen miniature cog-wheel monorails that snake through the vineyards stopping at collection points, many of them on this trail.
My top Cinque Terre wineries include:
Frazione Volastra, Via Montello 240B. Opening hours: by appointment only: email@example.com, Tel: 0187 760083.
Passionate, he grows and bottles minute quantities of delicious Cinque Terre wines, including Casata dei Beghee, a brilliant straw-hued wine with herbal notes. Capellini is even more respected his luscious Sciacchetrà. He also makes unique “Vino di Buccia” wine from the second pressing of Sciacchetrà skins (le bucce). Small, rough and ready, this winery is remarkable. Tastings of Capellini wines can be booked and are held at Cappun Magru restaurant in the village of Groppo. Read more about Capellini, his wines, and wines of Liguria in Food Wine Italian Riviera & Genoa.
Località Groppo, Tel: 0187920435. Open 7 to 7 Monday through Saturday, and by appointment (phone several days ahead; group visits, minimum 15).
Clean, well-made wines that showcase the wonderful herbal qualities of the Cinque Terre. Top wines made by this winery: Costa de Campu di Manarola; Costa de Sera di Riomaggiore; Costa dá Posa di Volastra. Vineyard visits by appointment only. There is a charge for wine tastings and snacks. The co-op has a fine boutique. Sold are wines, pesto, oils and olives, salted anchovies under oil, and other specialty foods of the Cinque Terre. Read more about the Cinque Terre Coop Winery and its wines in “Food Wine Italian Riviera & Genoa.”
Walter De Battè
Via Trarcantu 25, Tel: 0187 920127. By appointment only. De Battè is probably the finest maker of Sciacchetrà in Liguria.