Nestling between the Alps and the Apennines, Liguria is dominated by its steep coast line, which makes wine making an incredibly demanding task that requires a lot of passion at the Italian Riviera.
The region of Liguria also known as the Italian Riviera bordering France to the west, Piedmont in the north and Tuscanny in the south-east (Source: Pixabay / © OpenStreetMap contributors – available under the Open Database Licence )
The Key Facts
Geography, Climate and Soil
Liguria stretches from its western border with France near Nice and Monaco all along the Ligurian Sea in the Mediterranean to its south-eastern border at La Spezia, just after the picturesque Cinque Terre National Park (the one from the picture in the title). With the Alps to its north and west and the Apennine Mountains to the east, almost two thirds of its territory is mountainous. Liguria is dominated by a steep coastline and its Mediterranean climate.
Vineyards rise up to 500-600 meters above the sea level and the sharp rise together with the sea can cause strong night and day as well as seasonal temperature variations.
The western half is mostly limestone while the eastern slopes is made mainly of clay, but since Ligurian vineyards are all but terraced, the soil in itself is often an “artificial soil” because it could be sometimes transported to the terraces, although from the adjoining areas.
In the Vineyard
Making wine in on the Italian Riviera often is a question of passion for the land rather than economic considerations because of the conditions: the slopes rise steeply from sea level to hundreds of meters. Vineyards were built on terraces over generations and all work is manual. Vines are mostly planted on low pergola or bush-trained as albarello with high densities to make the most of the limited space on the terraces.
Wine production in Liguria in 2020 dropped by almost 7% compared to the previous year to a mere 78,864 hectoliters according to the official ISTAT data (the Italian National Institute of Statistics). That’s still significantly more than the 10-year average (i.e., 69,668hl), which includes the disastrous years of 2012 and 2013 though when production reached only 46,000 hl per year.
The area under production is a meagre 1,618 hectares (approximately 4,000 acres, making it the second-smallest region in Italy (only beaten by Val d’Aosta).
Production is divided at 70% white and 30% red and rosé wine. Vermentino is the dominant grape variety. The dominance of white varietals is mostly down to the use of Vermentino that accounts for about 45 percent of the total plantations. However, the autochthonous Pigato, Bosco and Albarola also contribute to tip the balance in favour of white wine production.
On the red side, Rossese is the most widely planted grape variety, but there is also Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo to a lesser amount as well as Ormeasco, the Ligurian name of Dolcetto.
Wine Growing Areas / DOCGs & DOCs
Liguria does not have any DOCG (just DOCs), which shouldn’t discourage you from trying its tasty wines. The region is basically split into two halves by its capital Genova, which sits right in the middle on the coast.
On the west you have the Riviera di Ponente and to the east the Riviera di Levante, and the two are quite distinct. The Riviera di Ponente is known for its wine made from single grape varietals like the Rossese wines made in the Dolceacqua DOC, the Ormeasco in the Pornassio DOC, Pigato or Vermentino in the Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC – all require to be made from at least 95% of those varieties alone.
The eastern part is known instead for its cuvees made from Bosco and Albarola and/or Vermentino in the Cinque Terre DOC or the Colline di Levanto DOC that use combinations of Vermentino, Bosco and Albarola for its white and Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo for its red wines.
In a Nutshell: The Key Facts Infographic
And if you want the key facts of the Wines of Liguria, download and print our infographic: