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Discovering Chora Rosso: a Calabrian mea culpa and native Magliocco

by Claudio Celio

It takes courage to give up everything you’d started – university studies and promising careers – and choose to go back home and take up winemaking from scratch.

It’s even harder somewhere like Calabria, a region that’s gorgeous yet complex and, what’s more, has long lived on the fringes of Italian wine history – at least the country's honor roll. Yet these three friends – Antonello, Dino and Emilio – did just that, preferring to return to their native Cosenza rather than look to the north to shape their future.

Since 2007, the future’s taken on the shape and contours of the vineyards they run at San Marco Argentano, where they cultivate autochthonous varieties and craft wines characterized by a distinctive goût de terroir, aiming to “give this territory dignity,” in the words of Dino Briglio (one of the friends and owners). Nor could it be otherwise when the grape types that Antonello, Dino and Emilio are dealing with are called Magliocco, Guarnaccia Nera, Mantonico.

There has never been any doubt the partners would have chosen organic agriculture, respectful of the soil, as well as natural vinification, as hands-off as possible once the grapes get into the winery.

The friends’ estate is called L’Acino (literally, “The Berry” – cf. and their range consists of several labels. I recently had the opportunity of tasting their red Chora, 2015 vintage: a blend of Magliocco, for the most part, with a small percentage of Guarnaccia Nera.

For someone like me, who’d always been unreasonably biased against Calabrian wines, it was nothing short of an epiphany. In lieu of the rather high-alcohol, too-tannic or unbalanced wines I had chanced upon those few times I’d tasted wines from the region, here was an aromatically very appealing red, with slightly green but well balanced tannins and immense quaffability.

“I like everyday wines and our red Chora reflects this,” says Dino Briglio. Very lively and straightforward, its aromatic complexity shows a measured combination of green nuances, particularly on the nose, and red fruit like cherry and wild berries, interwoven with earthier notes of bark and moss.

A deeply southern wine that nonetheless does not pall or exceed in softness; on the contrary, as it breathes in the glass, contact with oxygen gives it a crisper, cleaner bouquet and nimbleness. Forward and satisfying, it can be enjoyed in youth yet, according to Dino, the Magliocco variety is also rather cellar-worthy.