Gaglioppo is a red wine grape varietal that is grown primarily in and around Calabria region of southern Italy. For the Calabria wine region - the approachable Gaglioppo grape varietal has been the central character of the region's renaissance.
It is a late ripening grape varietal that, depending on the altitude and soil type it is planted, is capable of yielding wines of varying personality and styles. For most, Ciró - Calabria's most well-known wine region and home to wine producers like Librandi - maybe the only reference or experience with Gaglioppo. The vine performs well in arid conditions but is susceptible to odium. Calabria’s low-lying D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata classification) can yield the most powerful and highly tannic expressions of the varietal.


Though when Gaglioppo is grown in Calabria's higher altitudes - in D.O.C.s like Savuto - their wines can express the grape's more sensitive side. With the best examples, producing a leaner, floral style of Gaglioppo with plenty of acidity and an earthy character and finish. The grape can also produce wines that are full-bodied, high in alcohol and tannins with a need for considerable time in the bottle to soften in character. For example Librandi's - 'Duca Sanfelice Riserva', is a wine that needs a decade or more to come to terms with its tannin character. And in the past, the varietal was sometimes blended with up to 10% white wine.
Even with recent DNA analysis, the origin of Gaglioppo is still subject to debate. With current records, it is thought to have been brought to southern Italy by the Greeks around the same time as Aglianico, and might have been the celebratory wine of the Olympic Games 3000 years ago. But recent testing is showing the grape may have native origins, with a recent study conducted by the Italian government suggests that Sangiovese may be its parent. The grape is also believed to be an offspring of the Calabrian wine grape Mantonico Bianco.
Gaglioppo is also suspected to be same varietal as Marche's Lacrima di Morro, a grape grown in the D.O.C. of Lacrima di Morro d'Alba and defined by its distinct aroma of violets. A link between these two has some evidence - and the high-altitude expressions of Gaglioppo often display similar floral aromas. However, the strain of Lacrima grown in Morro d'Alba may well be a mutation of Lacrima Nera that, in terms of DNA, may be more of a distant cousin than a clone of Gaglioppo.
An Italian study published in 2008 using DNA analysis showed a close genetic relationship between Sangiovese and several other Italian grape varietals, including Gaglioppo. It is therefore likely that Gaglioppo is a crossing of Sangiovese and another, so far unidentified. So for the moment, this Italian grape varietal remains a mystery.
Currently Gaglioppo is planted and grown in 12 of Calabria's D.O.C. wine areas. Though only a few producers are exporting relatively small quantities, and with wineries like Statti, Odoardi, and Librandi paying a great deal of attention, Calabria and its Gaglioppo grape varietal have begun to come out of the shadows.
Some Gaglioppo grapes are blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, and can be heavily oaked. But there is a real chance that Gaglioppo might lose its own character, if tinkered with too much after it is harvested - the focus should be in the vineyard first. So an old grape, with a renewed focus, which you might start to see more often - showcasing a unique character.