The history of viticulture in Liguria
The first traces of vine cultivation in Liguria date back to Roman times, while the harshness of the territory had prevented its development in previous periods. Ligurian wines are mentioned by Pliny the Elder, although the first crops are probably the work of the Etruscans, in fact the first testimonies are related to the Riviera di Ponente, in the present territory of La Spezia and in the Cinque Terre. The commercial affirmation of Genoa and the Maritime Republic has also given considerable impetus to viticulture and wine production. Contacts with different peoples and cultures have certainly contributed to enriching the region from an ampelographic point of view. In 1500 the fact was known that the grapes of the Ligurian Riviera stood out for their quality and the first references to the Albarola grape are found. The first repertoires of grape varieties and wines produced in Liguria date back to the beginning of the 19th century, both Vermentino and Albarola (in Genoa known as Bianchetta) are named. Even today, the environmental and land conditions do not allow for extensive cultivation and for this reason the wine-making reality of Liguria is mainly made up of small cellars with generally limited production.
The wine production areas in Liguria
Starting from the east, ie from the Riviera di Levante, the first wine-producing area that we meet are the Colli di Luni, an area that extends as far as the province of Massa Carrara, in Tuscany. The most common white berried grape is here Vermentino, used both in purity and for the production of Colli di Luni Bianco, to which is added Trebbiano Toscano and other white berried grapes. Colli di Luni Rosso is instead produced with Sangiovese, Canaiolo Nero, Ciliegiolo, Pollera Nera and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Cinque Terre take their name from the five towns that overlook the Ligurian Sea in the eastern part of the region in the province of La Spezia. The landscape of the Cinque Terre is among the most suggestive that can be observed, with the vineyards planted in steep and steep slopes, on terraces that slope down to the sea. The wines of the Cinque Terre are produced with the grapes of the Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino vines, from which dry white wines are obtained and the rare Sciacchetrà passito, produced with overripe grapes left to dry in ventilated rooms.
Further west, the DOC areas of Val Polcevera and Tigullio are distinguished by wines produced with Bianchetta Genovese grapes, the name with which Albarola is locally known.
The Riviera di Ponente is characterized by the production of red wines, with the grapes of the Rossese, Ormeasco (Dolcetto) and Ciliegiolo vines. Rossese is the absolute protagonist of the DOC Dolceacqua wines. With Rossese, fruity red wines and slightly aggressive tannins are produced, characterized by a soft and muted color, similar to that of Nebbiolo wines. Ormeasco is instead the protagonist of the DOC of Pornassio. With the same grape is also produced the Ormeasco Sciac-trà, a rosé wine not to be confused with the Sciacchetrà of the Cinque Terre. Vermentino and Pigato are genetically similar vines and characterize white wines in the Riviera di Ponente DOC, particularly in the areas between the cities of Savona and Imperia.
The regional cuisine of Liguria
The Ligurian cuisine has an indissoluble link with the sea, as evidenced by the numerous recipes dedicated to fish. Among the first courses we mention the Brodetto of rock fish, whitebait stew, fish ravioli and the marinara mussel soup. Among the latter, the cappon magro, fish salad, seafood and shellfish combined with vegetables, the whitebait omelette, the small eyes in pea sauce, the stockfish, the buridda (fish stewed with peas). The whitebait, which are fished in Liguria from 1 December to 30 April, are the young of some species of marine fish, in particular sardines and anchovies. They are 3 to 10 mm long and appear as a whitish mass.
The ground kitchen
Among the first dishes of earth we remember the soups and soups, interpreted with a richness of vegetables and aromas: the Genovese-style minestrone, soft, fragrant and enveloping, the mesciua, a mixture of legumes and the bake, tripe stew, served with broth . The sauces, which accompany the typical Ligurian pasta, such as the trenette and the trofie, among which pesto excels, based on the fragrant Ligurian basil, famous throughout the world, the walnut sauce, the touch (gravy) of meat, the touch of mushrooms, the green sauce. Among the latter, the Genoese summit is a must, a sort of “pocket” of veal with a filling consisting mainly of vegetables, pine nuts and cheese, accompanied by side dishes such as stuffed lettuce, artichoke and mushroom omelette or herb omelette, the scorzonera (wild herb) fried and the pumpkin flowers stuffed with potatoes.
Pasta and flour are the basis for many typical dishes of Ligurian cuisine: the chickpea farinata, thin, crunchy, with a golden surface, with the addition of rosemary, onions and sausage, is a dish rich in calories consumed preferably in the autumn; the focaccia is a classic Ligurian specialty, to which are added ingredients such as onions and olives, and many others, creating numerous variations. The most famous are the Sardenaira, with tomato, olives and anchovies and the focaccia di Recco, with fresh cheese.
Oil and aromatic herbs
The presence of the olive tree in Liguria dates back to 3000 BC The Riviera Ligure DOP oil stands out for its fruity and delicate taste of ripe olive, almost not bitter at all, with hints of almond and pine nut. It is ideal for mayonnaise and fish dishes in general. Characteristic of the Ligurian cuisine are the fragrant aromatic herbs, such as basil, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sage and borage, used together with other wild herbs to give each dish a touch of originality.
In Torriglia there are canestrelli (shortbread biscuits), in Rapallo the gobeletti (shortbread cakes filled with fruit jam), in Sassello the macaroons with almond paste and in Genoa the Lagaccio biscuits, originating from the homonymous neighborhood. Pandolce is the Genoese version of panettone, prepared by hand with a more compact and less leavened dough, and very rich in raisins and candied fruit. Chinotto is a mutation of bitter orange, whose culture has been well established in Liguria for three centuries, especially in the Savona area, in the area between Varazze and Finale Ligure and in the valleys behind. Its fruits, with orange-yellow peel and white pulp, as big as apricots, are syruped, seasoned and used to prepare elixirs, liqueurs, jams and mustards.