The Cirò DOC is a picturesque corner of the Mediterranean, along the Ionian coast, in the eastern foothills of the Calabria region, a large peninsula that forms the toe to Italy’s boot. The Parrilla family, who own and run Tenuta del Conte, have been making wine here for four generations, the latest of which to take over the estate are Mariangela, Giuseppe, and Caterina.
Winemaking in Calabria dates back thousands of years, and Cirò is the most famous of the Calabrian DOCs. The vineyards stretch from right next to the coast, up into the foothills of the mountains, interweaved with olive groves, citrus orchards, and prickly pear cacti. The temperatures here can be very hot and conditions dry, with 300 days of sunshine per year, but the soils are very good at retaining water and the proximity to the sea brings constant ventilation in the form of fresh sea breezes, creating a perfect micro-climate for growing healthy grapes. Gaglioppo and Greco Bianco are the two varieties Cirò is famous for, and the pride of the peninsula. Small amounts of other local and international grapes are grown and allowed as part of the blends, but the majority must be Gaglioppo or Greco Bianco to be labeled DOC.
Tenuta del Conte’s first vineyards were planted in 1960 by Francesco Parrilla, who began by selling fruit to the local cooperative, whilst reserving just small amounts to make un-labeled wine for home consumption. 2004 was the first vintage to be labeled under the Tenuta del Conte name and made commercially available. Today the family owns 15 hectares of vineyard land, which is cultivated organically, officially certified from 2014 onwards. The vines are trained according to the Alberello method, which is small bush vines with maximum canopy to protect the fruit from extreme sun exposure.
2011 was a real turning point for the winery when Mariangela Parrilla took over as winemaker. Mariangela takes a philosophical approach to winemaking, with the aim to let these traditional indigenous grape varieties speak for themselves and their terroir. Her wines are all organic, no herbicides or chemicals are used at any stage of the production process, she opts for spontaneous fermentations using indigenous yeasts, no filtration, and solely stainless-steel and bottle aging. Taking each wine vintage by vintage she lets them evolve and age “according to their own natural rhythm”, making each wine unique. This could be just one year in bottle before release or over 10 years. Not only does she capture the unique character of the grape variety but that of the vintage it's from too.
Together with a handful of other wineries in the area, Mariangela is part of “The Cirò Revolution”, a group formed to promote and protect their territory’s identity. They are dedicated to organic viticulture and minimal intervention winemaking, they make traditional wines, in homage to their ancestors, from native grape varieties. Originally formed as “The Cirò Boys”, that was until Mariangela came along, bringing fresh new ideas as a dynamic young female winemaker. As a collective, these innovative wineries are breathing new life into the Cirò DOC and prized recognition for their work with these native varieties.