Best Ligurian Wines and Food Pairings
Situated north of Tuscany and south of Piedmont, Liguria stretches for 250 km along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea: a thin ragged land characterized by hills overlooking the sea where vineyards are scattered.
In some parts of the beautiful Italian Riviera, the hillslopes are so steep that the land must be cultivated by hand. However, despite the hard conditions for viticulture, it is thanks to a great passion for wine making that we can now taste excellent Ligurian wines.
In this article you’ll learn all about the best ligurian wines produced in this region and their food pairings.
Best Ligurian Wines: an Overview
In Liguria 6’000 hectares of land are dedicated to vineyards and, specifically, only 500 hectares are classified as DOC. Despite the limited wine production, Ligurian wines are amazingly high quality. Why is that?
The Mediterranean climate together with the soil composition (the percentage of limestone is particularly high) have a great impact on the cultivation of white grapes, which are used for the production of white wines, making up 75% of the annual wine production of this region.
The most famous variety of white grape is Vermentino, also called “Pigato” by the locals who call the spots on mature grapes “pighe”.
From white grapes some of the best Ligurian wines are produced: Cinque Terre DOC, Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà DOC (Cinque Terre sweet wine), Colli di Luni DOC, Golfo del Tigullio DOC and Valpolcevera DOC.
Although red wines are not as famous as white wines, some good ones are produced like Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC (Dolceacqua is also known for its green focaccia), similar to Dolcetto from Piedmont, Colline di Levanto DOC, Pornassio DOC and many others.
1. DOC Wines of Liguria
Don’t know what DOC and IGT designations are?
If you’re curious to know more take a look at my article How to Buy Your Wine in Italian Supermarkets where I thoroughly explain the difference between DOCG, DOC and IGT wines.
1.1 Cinque Terre DOC
Where it is produced: Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare, province of La Spezia.
Characteristics: Cinque Terre white wine (also Sciacchetrà DOC, Passito and Riserva)
Best Paired With: Cinque Terre DOC white wine goes best with fish of any kind (from soups to pasta and risotto) and typical foods of Cinque Terre such as muscoli (mussels) and Monterosso anchovies.
1.2 Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà DOC
1.3 Colline di Levanto DOC
Where it is produced: Levanto, Bonassola, Framura and Deiva Marina municipalities (La Spezia province).
Characteristics: 4 versions: white, Vermentino, red, Novello. The red version is made up of Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo grapes, while the white version of Vermentino, Albarola and Bosco.
Best Paired With: Colline di Levanto white wine goes best with fish appetizers, anchovies, grilled fish, pasta and risotto with seafood. The red wine should be paired with rabbit and regional vegetable soups.
1.4 Golfo del Tigullio - Portofino DOC
Where it is produced: Genoa province
Characteristics: 8 main versions: white (also Spumante, sparkling and Passito), red (also sparkling and Novello), rosato (also sparkling), Bianchetta Genovese (also sparkling), Vermentino (also sparkling), Ciliegiolo (also sparkling and Novello), Moscato (also Passito), Scimiscià or Cimixa.
Best Paired With: Golfo del Tigullio DOC white wine goes best with trenette and trofie with Pesto Genovese, S. Stefano d’Aveto cheese (San Ste’). Vermentino is an ideal match to Focaccia di Recco, while Bianchetta Genovese is perfect with the plain and fluffy Focaccia Genovese. Golfo del Tigullio red wine is paired with meat sauce (ragù), poultry and Italian style fried offal and vegetables. The Rosato version should be served with Genoa vegetable soup and La Spezia muscoli (mussels).
1.5 Pornassio DOC
Where it is produced: Imperia province.
Characteristics: 3 versions: red (also Superiore), Sciacchetrà, Passito (also Liquoroso, fortified).
Best Paired With: the red version of Pornassio DOC goes best with meat and seafood of the Ligurian cuisine. Pornassio DOC Superiore is best paired with stuffed pigeon, rabbit stew and soft cheeses. The Passito version is usually paired with Ligurian traditional sweets such as panserotti filled with jam, Pontedassio cookies and “stroscia” of Pietrabruna (short pastry typical of Imperia).
1.6 Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC
Where it is produced: municipalities in Imperia, Savona and Genoa provinces.
Characteristics: 5 types od Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC: Granaccia (also Superiore and Passito), Moscato (also sparkling, Passito and Vendemmia tardiva, late harvest), Pigato (also Superiore and Passito), Rossese (also Passito), Vermentino (also Superiore and Passito).
Best Paired With: vegetable soups, Genoese-style mullet, “stoccafisso al verde” (cod with potatoes, nuts, parsley, garlic, olive oil and salt), pastry.
1.7 Colli di Luni DOC
Where it is produced: Colli di Luni, La Spezia (Liguria) and Massa Carrara (Tuscany) provinces.
Characteristics: 4 versions: white, Vermentino (also Superiore), Albarola and red (also Riserva). Each version is made from a different percentage of Vermentino and Trebbiano Toscano grapes.
Best Paired With: as Colli di Luni DOC is an aperitivo wine, fish starters and any local fish dishes are the best match.
1.8 Rossese di Dolceacqua DOC
Where it is produced: Imperia province.
Characteristics: red (also Superiore)
Best Paired With: game and meat, particularly “Cima alla genovese”, cold stuffed veal, Ligurian-style rabbit, mutton stew with olive oil, herbs and tomato.
1.9 Valpolcevera DOC
Where it is produced: Genoa province.
Characteristics: white (also Spumante, sparkling and Passito), red (also Novello and sparkling), Rosato (also sparkling), Bianchetta Genovese (also sparkling), Vermentino (also sparkling), Coronata.
Best Paired With: white wines are best paired with S. Stefano d’Aveto cheese, La Spezia mussels, trofie with Pesto Genovese and cod, whereas red wines are best with Genoese salami, Ligurian-style rabbit and stuffed vegetables.
2. IGT Wines
Along with DOC wines, there are also a series of IGT wines, following a less strict procedure for wine production:
- Colline del Genovesato IGT (around Genoa);
- Colline Savonesi IGT (based in the province of Savona, close to Genoa);
- Liguria di Levante IGT (ex Golfo dei Poeti IGT and based around La Spezia);
- Terrazze dell’Imperiese IGT (established in 2011 and based in the province of Imperia).
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Images credits: “Return to the Cinque Terre” byFermented Thoughts //CC BY2.0 (3rd picture); “Vermentino di Liguria” by Fermented Thoughts //CC BY 2.0 (5th picture).