The first time I saw these vineyards it was from the seaon a boat trip from Monterosso to Lerici, from the sea they don’t look like vineyards as many are derelict, the dificulty in cultivating these terraces has meant many have given up the unequal and loss making struggle for an easier life.
I first visited the Cinque Terre when we purchased a small apartment just outside San Remo in Liguria, initially all the wine visits on our infrequent stays at the place were to the Barolo region not far away to the north, but when we adventured south along the coast past Genoa we discovered the "Five Lands"and its magnificent coastline and stunning villages, like this one Vernazza.
It was only when travelling along the very difficult road along the cliff tops and stopping at a restaurant that the wine of the region surfaced and I naturally took an interest.
The wines are nearly all white, the red is extremely rare and in very small quantities, whether it is worth tracking down I have no idea as I never saw it or found it.
But the whites for which the dry aromatic Cinque Terre is named after consists of 60% Bosco and 40% Albarola and Vermentino and there is a much prized sweet concentrated white called Sciacchetra which I never drank, the white is a decent wine but is probably purchased as much for its rarity and novelty value as anything else which considering the blood and toil that goes into producing the wine is a shame.
Many of the steep terraces use monorails to bring the grapes up such is the steepness similar to those very steep slopes in the Mosel.
The difficulty in getting to and finding many of these vineyards plus many do not have the space for degustation facilities that only a couple were ever visited, this is one.
This winery is at the start of the Cinque Terre so has easier access and bigger facilities plus other wines others cannot squeeze in as it were but it is a good easy start to the area and the DOC Cinque Terre is very affordable and as good as any.
Luckily there does seem to be a stop to the decline here, some of the vineyards have actually had investment and are pushing the wines of the region for the first time in decades of decline, so there is hope, it will be a sad day when areas like this are forced out of production of a unique product by the simple inability to compete.
In the early days this area was apart from being a walkers paradise along the cliff top path still largely unfound, but that changed rapidly and coaches are now having to be resricted on these small roads and the towns have become saturated with visitors, nonetheless, this world heritage site, is this award really a blessing ?, is still a must if in the area, and the wine whilst not great is worth supporting and is improving.
The best way to approach the beautiful villages is by boat where you also get the magnificent coastline thrown in as well, plus there is a train service along the whole length of the Cinque Terre with many tunnels and cuttings en route, so there are non road options.
Our place in San Remo has now been sold at last and for other reasons further visits are at the moment unlikely, sad as Liguria offers as so much of Italy does fabulous scenery and access to great and rare wines and grapes growing almost cheek by jowl.