Weekend in the Cinque Terre: trekking, breaks and wine

Weekend in the Cinque Terre: trekking, breaks and wine

The Cinque Terre (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore), where the waves crash again and again against the rocks, slowly shaping them, and where houses and churches perched above the sea are the most common subject for paintings and photos. Anyone who has been lucky enough to scramble along the pathways of the Cinque Terre will know that this little strip of the Ligurian coast is well worth the trip, the fatigue of the walk and the lack of intimacy due to the large number of tourists. However, there are certain corners off the beaten track: vineyards clinging to the steep land, shaped and tamed by man who, with hard work and sweat, built the terraces which make it possible to keep your balance despite the breathtaking panorama making you dizzy even if you don’t suffer from vertigo.

Sciacchetrà between the sublime and harmony of man with nature

It is beauty that has this effect: the sublime, as the Romantics would call it. The poets and heroes of English Romanticism were the first to draw inspiration from these places. Who knows whether Lord Byron tasted the sweet Sciacchetrà, a rare gem (only a few thousand bottles are produced a year and still strictly for personal use), a sweet dried-grape wine with unique characteristics in the world. The brave vinegrowers obtain this wine from non-aromatic white grapes: Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino picked by hand. The vineyards are in precarious positions to say the least, so much so that cableways must be used to join one promontory to another. The bunches are raisined in drying rooms for about two months and, after slow ageing in small casks, they get a wine with intense iodine nuances, fruit, earth and spices, with high residual sugar and acidity.

Litan-300x225The abandon and rebirth of heroic viticulture

After the flood and landslides of 2011, the Cinque Terre rolled up their sleeves to re-establish the balance between man and nature summed up in those bottles of Sciacchetrà which still play an important role at parties and events in the lives of the local inhabitants. As for the origin of the name, the debate is still open: a possible root is a link to the Semitic term “shekar”, to indicate fermented drinks. Then again, you can still hear the old farmers talking about “rinfursat” or “refursat”, made from the ripasso technique on the grape skins of Sciacchetrà wine; it is a wine that has almost disappeared and Sciacchetrà seemed to be going in the same direction. After the gradual abandonment of viticulture in these areas, there has been an attempt since the start of the 2000s by some modern heroes, poets of the earth who work hard and who often don’t even reach one hectare of vineyard, to recover these traditions.

In search of lost Sciacchetrà

Going in search of the real nectar of the Cinque Terre is not easy. On the one hand it is difficult to distinguish authentic wines from the (unfortunately very common) “tourist traps”. On the other hand, most of the wineries are small and family-run, so they don’t have an adequate structure for receiving visitors. For this reason, we recommend you contact the winery beforehand to check availability. Going eastwards, first of all we come across the Buranco winery in Monterosso, where you can stay the night in farmhouse accommodation. Buranco is also one of the main wine producers in the area. As well as the white wines and dried grape wine, the  more curious can taste a red wine, Rosso delle Cinque Terre, made from international A-picco-sul-marevarieties (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).

To follow Sebastiano Catania from the Vétua winery (Fuisso area, Monterosso al Mare – 320-9282203) in his vineyards overhanging the sea, you need stamina and trained calf muscles. It is no coincidence that Vétua means  “vetta” or “summit”, but every drop of sweat will be rewarded by the overwhelming freshness of his wines. You can (and must”) taste the Sciacchetrà Riserva, which is only produced in the best vintages, but an absolute must is the white wine made from a blend of local varieties. It will make your jaw drop, and not because of the steep slopes.

Going on towards Riomaggiore

In the old village of Volastra, between Corniglia and Riomaggiore, time seems to stand still. Luciano Capellini produces Sciacchetrà only when the weather allows and when the grapes reach the right level of ripeness. The white has the same grape blend and is a guarantee, but Luciano Capellini also stands out for being one of the few producers of “refursat” which he has renamed “Vin de Gussa” (“skin wine”, because it rests on the skins of Sciacchetrà wine). It is very unusual, the name has also been used by Terre Sospese, a tiny young winery run by Andrea Pecunia who produces natural wines in the centre of Riomaggiore.

Also in the same municipality is the Litàn winery: just one hectare of vineyards inherited from the grandfather Giulio, nicknamed “Litàn”, and brought back to the light in 2006 by his three grandchildren. It is a very small winery that is constantly growing, a garden suspended between the sea and the sky in the “Costa de Sèra” area and where the vineyard, which can only be reached on foot along a steep path, produces two wines of the same combination of Bosco, Vermentino and Albarola grapes.

Lastly, there is Walter De Battè (via Pecunia, 160 – Riomaggiore – 389 8084812), who personifies the fusion between wine and sea, like one of his white wines, Altrove, which is the result of a visionary character, the search for beauty as well as quality and the blending of Marsanne, Bosco, Vermentino, Rossese Bianco and Roussanne grapes. Underwood, on the other hand, is 100% Bosco, exuberant, powerful but balanced. It is a real challenge, which continues with the Prima Terra winery in the Colli di Luni area, towards the border with Tuscany.

Limoni-5-terre-300x300Where to eat off the beaten track

 La Cantina di Miky: a modern and informal eatery with an ample wine list and much sought-after fish dishes. Also excellent for an aperitif in the centre of Monterosso after a day on the beach.

– Osteria a Cantina de Mananan (0187-821166): typical Ligurian dishes in a warm and casual environment in Corniglia.

– Ristorante Belforte: specialities with the catch of the day in a charming corner of Vernazza.

– A pié de mà: a large terrace on the “Way of Love” in Riomaggiore. Bar, wine shop and restaurant with reasonable prices and high quality, with live music in the evening. Also perfect for a romantic aperitif at sunset.

Where to sleep during a weekend in the Cinque Terre

– Outside of the Cinque Terre, but within easy distance: Locanda La Trigola in Santo Stefano di Magra

– A simple B&B in Riomaggiore with a breakfast terrace: La Terrazza

– A B&B among the olive trees with a scenic view of the bay in Monterosso: Il Parco

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