Given the conformity of the landscape, most of the vineyards of Liguria are planted on steep terraces, which make them particularly hard to work on. However, some territories (the coasts) are ideal for grapevine cultivation since they are characterized by a hot and dry climate, and sandy soils. Mainly the area is known for its white wines, and in particular those made from the Vermentino grapes. In the Ligurian wines these grapes can be the main variety, or they can be blended with other grapes such as Albarola or Bosco. There is also a local grape variety called Bianchetta Genovese that used to be exclusive of the environs of the city of Genova, once extremely rich in vineyards, from which the white wine Bianchetta della Valpolcevera is made.
Although less renown, some red wines are also typical of the Liguria region. In particular those wines made from the grape variety Rossese, which probably comes from France (Provence), like the Rossese della Riviera Ligure di Ponente and the Rossese di Dolceacqua. Also noteworthy is the wine made from the Ciliegiolo grapes which, as the name suggests (ciliegia = cherry), make a cherry-scented red wine common also in Tuscany.
For more info go to http://www.agriligurianet.it (text in Italian)
Varese Ligure - Bertignana - Moggia di Varese: Mirko Picetti on his terraced vineyard
Portuguese Colares wines
Colares wine comes from a small area north of Lisbon, at the foot of Sintra mountain, in the sandy area close to sea. It is one of the best of Portuguese wines and one of the few wines that survived the Phylloxera vastatrix, which destroyed almost every European vines in the late nineteenth century. However, these disease-causing insects do not survive in sandy soils. Nowadays almost every remaining vine is grafted onto American root stock. In wine literature it is often said the pre-phylloxera vines were superior.
Properties are small and bound by Arundo donax or loose stone walls, stones being brought from vineyards planted in non-sandy soils. Planting is highly unusual. The soil is sandy for about eight feet deep. Planters must dig down to the clay base for planting, a hard labor. Some plants are over 100 years. Just before ripening, the vines are propped up away from the sand, using pieces of Arundo donax. At this stage the grapes are often covered with dried weeds from the vineyard itself, to prevent sunburns. The final product is an excellent wine and hard to come by.
Colares wines have been in production for seven hundred years in the same small area at the foot of the Sintra Mountains. At the beginning of the 20th century it became legally an Appellation Origin.
The pressure of tourism has become very high and agriculture has decreased dramatically. Now most of the winegrowers are forced to concentrate their efforts on the Chão Rijo (hard soil) vineyards.
Planting in sandy soils
Keeping palisades of dried canes
Harvesting of grapes
Transport of grapes by donkey
Weighing the harvest at the cooperative winery
Removing the wine supporting canes
Photos: Arquivo de Adega Regional de Colares: X. Maya , Joao Luis Doria, Jose Vicente PAulo, Luis Indias