Wines from Liguria

When one thinks of Italian wine producing regions, Liguria is not the first that comes to mind. Nor is it second or third or fourth or….well, you get the idea. Needless to say, it is relatively unknown in terms of wine even for Italians. Perhaps it’s because the region itself is quite small and so, given the available land, wines can only be produced in limited quantities. Or perhaps it’s because it is overshadowed by its super-power wine-producing neighbors, Piedmont to the north, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna to the east, and France to the west.  Or maybe they are yet to be discovered! Whatever the reason, Liguria has maintained a wine culture for centuries and these wines are not to be ignored. With the write-up on pesto, a typical dish from Liguria, I thought I would shed some light on this unfamiliar wine producing region.


If you read my other post, you know that Liguria is a thin crescent shaped region tucked between mountains and sea in north-western Italy. Rugged hills rise almost immediately from the coastline, which makes planting vines a challenge, but not an insurmountable one! The mountainous and rocky terrain does, however, shield grapes from the northern Alpine winds and the richer limestone soil gives white wines a great minerality. The salty air coming off the sea also gives some varieties an added saline characteristic. The region is home to over 100 grape varieties and 8 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (or Denomination of Controlled Origin) and is an Italian certification system that indicates a protected zone where wine producers must adhere to strict regulations.  It is part of a series of laws that aim to protect the quality and authenticity of Italian wine. However, just because a wine is not labeled DOC does not mean it’s inferior in quality. But perhaps I’ll address wine certification in another post. Now, back to Liguria!


Most of the wine in Liguria is happily imbibed by the locals and you would be hard-pressed to find several of these wines outside the region or even the country given their artisanal production. Liguria produces both red and white wines but its whites are the stronger of the two and more easily complement the local cuisine. When speaking of wine production, Liguria can be divided into east and west. The eastern side is known as Riviera di Levante while the western side is known as Riviera di Ponente and there are notable differences in wines produced and production styles. The western side has been known to produce single variety wines native to Liguria while the eastern side produces more blended wines, similar to its Tuscan counterpart.

On the eastern side the most famous wine comes from Cinque Terre, which includes the villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These villages are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The white wines produced here are from the grape varieties Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino and are mostly dry and crisp with delicate notes. The same grape varieties are also used to produce a traditional, rare sweet wine (passito) called Sciacchetra. On the western side the most famous varietal is Pigato. A very dry, well-structured white wine with saline characteristics, it pairs well with the fish and aromatic herbal dishes of Liguria, such as pasta with pesto sauce. The reds from the west include Ormeasco, a similar variety to the Piemontese Dolcetto, and Rossese, which produces a soft, fruity and spicy wine.

There is no doubt that wines from Liguria are special. The rugged mountainous terrain, terraced slopping hills, and seaside mists all contribute to the uniqueness and exclusivity of these wines. There really are some rare, hidden gems in this region just waiting to be discovered!

**I hope to delve more into Ligurian wines in the future, and to take a closer look at the Ligurian wines pictured below. While the above words were actually written a few years back and posted to, the wine photos pictured are from my various travels throughout Liguria over the past years.

Cimixa’ (Scimiscia’) from Cantine Levante in Portofino just outside Genova. Dry white wine with floral, citrusy notes and excellent minerality.

Pigato from Laura Aschero winery. Fuller-bodied, dry white wine with notes of stone fruits and honey, and herbaceous undertones
Rossese di Dolceacqua from Cantina Ka Mancine in western Liguria. Fresh savory red wine with great drinkability.

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