Vineyards directly on the Ligurian coast, a wonderful viewVineyards directly on the Ligurian coast, a wonderful view

Vineyards so steep

Vis Amoris

Village in a beautiful location, right on the Ligurian coast – Cinque TerreVillage in a beautiful location, right on the Ligurian coast – Cinque Terre

The Ligurian winery responsible for the rebirth of the Pigato white grape variety.

On the coast of Liguria, winegrowing is not a task for the faint of heart. Brave winemakers cultivate some of the steepest parcels in the world here.

Liguria is shaped like a croissant. Its 350-kilometre coastline begins at the Italian border with France and ends at Tuscany. The terrain here is rugged and difficult to traverse. It is full of steep slopes where the foothills of the Apennines meet the Mediterranean. In many places there is a vertical drop straight down to the sea. Winegrowing here is one of the toughest jobs in the world. The amount of cultivated land is among the smallest in all of Italy, made up of minuscule plots. Almost 4,000 winemakers share a total area of 1,500 hectares. The volume produced is hardly enough to quench the thirst of the region’s residents and summer guests. It is extremely rare for Ligurian wine to make its way to export.

Liguria’s most famous winegrowing area is without a doubt Cinque Terre. These five villages, barely accessible by car, nestle defiantly between cliffs and the sea. Beyond the villages, terraced vineyards rise on steep slopes to the sky, the terraces supported by traditional dry stone walls. Every single task has to be performed manually here, and in summer this work is done under a broiling sun, which heats up the slopes.

An inside tip: Pigato

At one time Liguria was the crossroads of trade routes running between Italy, France and Spain, so the region has a treasure trove of ancient grape varieties that have become naturalised. There are said to be over 100 of these, though many are threatened with extinction. However, a local variant of Vermentino has managed to survive to the present day: Pigato. It yields herbal-spicy, iodine-like, almost salty white wine – you might almost think you could taste the sea breeze. It is also suitable for barrel ageing, which gives wines with good laying-down potential. Rossana Zappa and Roberto Tozzi of the Vis Amoris winery are the people who saved Pigato. Since 2004 they have been bringing one parcel after another back to life. Most of these parcels had lain fallow for more than 30 years.

The rare sweet wine Sciacchetrà

Liguria’s red wine specialities include Rossese – a wine with good ageing potential despite its lightness; it is soft and full-bodied, making it an ideal match for fish – and the fruity-sweet Ormeasco, which should be enjoyed young; it is identical to the Dolcetto from Piedmont. Do not miss an opportunity to try the rare Sciacchetrà, the traditional sweet wine from Cinque Terre. This is made from dehydrated grapes of the same varieties used for many dry wines: BoscoAlbarola and Vermentino.

Ligurian cuisine is closely connected to the sea. It is known as «cucina del ritorno», meaning the cuisine of return: simple dishes that are tied to the land, dishes that fishermen and sailors used to long for when they were at sea. Among these are numerous variants of the torta salata – pies filled with savoury ingredients such as egg and spinach (torta pasqualina), herbs (torta marinara) or local artichokes (torta di carciofi). This is also where focaccia was invented. It is said that bread does not rise properly in Liguria due to the damp and salty sea air. As an alternative, housewives invented these flatbreads, which they sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil.

Speaking of which: Ligurian olive oil is among the best in Italy. Delicate and aromatic, it is the star ingredient (together with basil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese) in pesto alla genovese, the classic variety from the city of Genoa, birthplace of Columbus. Very important: authentic pesto is never made in a blender, but crushed by hand with a mortar and pestle. And don’t forget Liguria’s fish specialities of course. «Pesci azzuri», meaning «blue fish» such as sardines, tuna, mackerel or swordfish, are especially popular. They make their way to the table shortly after being caught, where of course there will be a good glass of wine to wash them down.

docg areas in Liguria


doc areas in Liguria

Cinque Terre e Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà, Colli di Luni, Colline di Levanto, Golfo del Tigullio-Portofino, Pornassio, Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Rosses di Dolceacqua, Val Polcèvera

Key producers

Primaterra, Vis Amoris

Wines from Liguria