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Typical Calabrian products: Moscato passito di Saracena

2022-11-27 20:36

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Moscato di Saracena' is a passito wine produced in Saracena (Wine City), Calabria. Discover its history, production and anecdotes




Typical Calabrian products: Moscato passito di Saracena




Saracena is a village in the Pollino National Park in Calabria, located on a rocky hillside on the eastern side of the Garga river valley at the foot of the Orsomarso Mountains.

In this village, one of Italy's gastronomic excellences is produced, and one that has perhaps not yet been given due prominence. In addition to the Vin Santo of the oldest Tuscan tradition, the noble Greco di Bianco and many other excellent passito wines that Calabria has begun to produce, one cannot fail to mention the moscato di Saracena

essiccazione uva per moscato di saracena

Moscato di Saracena' is a raisin wine produced in Saracena(Città del vino), a town located in the Pollino National Park, a vast natural area between the two regions of Basilicata and Calabria (southern Italy). In demand since the 16th century on the tables of the Popes, this wine was mentioned by Norman Douglas (1915) in his book 'Old Calabria', as well as by George Gissing (1901) in his work 'By the Ionian Sea'.

Moscato a Governo di Saracena is considered a niche product; the natural rhythms to be observed for ripening, harvesting, and the ideal drying of the grapes; the time required for fermentation and ageing in barrels or barriques, are difficult to reconcile with mass production. Slow Food has made this wine one of the few protected wine areas widespread throughout Italy, and it has recently received the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and the 'Slow Food Presidia' designation (

Domenico Gallicchio, one of the many producers says: 'in every house in Saracena there is a reserve of Muscat and if you knock on any door and ask for a glass, there is no family that cannot offer it to you. Each producer has his or her own traditional recipe and little secrets for its preparation, which consist in the different percentages of grapes, the use of different varieties of firing or different woods and vessels. Tradition dictates that the boiling of the must takes place in a copper pot, tinned of course'.

Elisabetta Ferrara, agricultural entrepreneur, gives her

version: 'My grandfather Vincenzo, a pharmacist from Saracena - who left his recipe to my mother, AnnaViola - used Odoacra grapes, Malvasia, white Guarnaccia and a little black to give it a more intense colour, as well as Moscatello. All the grapes were crushed, except for the Moscatello bunches, which were dried on racks. The must was boiled and when it was ready, the Moscatello grapes were put in. The skins and seeds were removed at the time of decanting'.




Moscato di Saracena is obtained from the vinification of various indigenous grapes:

the white 'Guarnaccia' the white 'Malvasia' of Candia and a percentage more or less equal to 10 per cent of Moscatello whose bunches are left to dry on racks' .  Some producers add a small part of a very rare grape: Odoacra.


essiccazione uva moscatello


The white Addoraca vine (also Odoacrao Duraca), the name of which means 'fragrant' and is synonymous with the Zibibbo vine, used in Calabria is a very rare variety and is cultivated exclusively in the municipality of Saracena (province of Cosenza) and neighbouring areas such as Verbicaro.


"E' arrivata l'adduraca !' ('The Adduraca has arrived!'): this was the call that, many years ago, echoed through the alleyways of the villages of the Calabrian-Lucano Apennines, as the fruit and vegetable vendors passed by on their way from the plains. A sweet grape, highly sought-after, much appreciated and very rare.

 It was from Ancient Egypt that the Romans brought this unknown grape variety. The wine produced from it is a sublime zibibbo, whose name goes back to the Egyptian locality El Zibibb, or to the North African word Zibibb, meaning dried grape, because of its inclination to be dried. Most experts link it to the more famous 'Moscato d'Alessandria', given the identical characteristics of the vine with its medium, trilobed and sometimes pentalobed leaves, large, winged, semi-sparse, elongated bunches, with thick-skinned, greenish-yellow grapes shaped like small eggs. However, Moscato d'Alessandria is cultivated in Sicily, where part of the production ends up on tables and the rest gives rise to the famous Moscato di Pantelleria, while Adduraca is exclusive to the north-western part of Calabria, i.e. a very small area concentrated mainly in the southern offshoots of the Pollino National Park and closely neighbouring areas (the Verbicaro countryside). The vine is vigorous, although it is quite susceptible to powdery mildew, or better known as mal bianco, a mould that causes grape rot, and to grape downy mildew, another mould, whitish, that dries out the leaves and 'boils', literally, the bunches. The grapes ripen late and the wine made from them is straw yellow with golden highlights, sweet and with high alcohol content. Finding Adduraca grapes and an Adduraca zibibbo wine to enjoy is a true rarity



La più importante, il "Moscato" o "Moscatello", è coltivata esclusivamente in questo luogo e si suppone che sia stata portata dai Saraceni da Maskat. Il Moscatello: antico vitigno locale, presente anche nella Locride con il nome di “Zibibbeddu” (piccolo Zibibbo), pur mostrando l’aromaticità tipica della famiglia dei Moscati, non somiglia né al Moscato di Alessandria né ad altri Moscato o Moscatello diffusi nel resto della penisola.

Moscato è il termine usato per indicare una delle famiglie di vitigni più ampia e variegata, che affonda le sue origini nell'Antica Grecia. Questa tipologia di uve era chiamata in greco Anathelicon Moschaton (da "muscum=muschio" per via dell'odore molto caratteristico che ricorda il muschio) e in latino Uva Apiana, per via del fatto che veniva mangiata dalle api dato il suo gusto dolcissimo.

 Il Moscato è da sempre una delle uve più diffuse in tutto il bacino mediterraneo, e durante il Medioevo si è diffusa anche verso il Nord Europa, soprattutto in Francia dove viene chiamata Musqué, ed oggi è considerata a tutti gli effetti un vitigno internazionale. In purezza è utilizzato anche nella composizione di 4 DOCG: Moscato di Scanzo DOCG in Lombardia, Moscato d'Asti DOCG e Asti Spumante DOCG in Piemonte, Fior d'Arancio Colli Euganei DOCG in Veneto.


In Francia è utilizzato per produrre vini dolci naturali (mutizzati con alcol), per esempio nelle AOC Muscat de Beaume de Venise (regione Rodano) e Muscat de Rivesaltes (regione Languedoc), ma anche per produrre un vino molto simile al moscato d'Asti: la Clairette de Die (regione Drome).

Il Moscato è un'uva caratterizzata da un profumo intenso e da un gusto molto dolce, che la rendono un vitigno ideale per creare vini dolci e passiti, sia fermi che frizzanti o spumanti, ma anche per essere mangiato come uva da tavola.

Della stessa famiglia dei Moscati fanno parte 9 varietà diverse: il Moscato Bianco, il Moscato Giallo, il Moscato rosa, il Moscato d'Alessandria o Zibibbo, il Moscato nero di Acqui, il Moscato nero di Scanzo, il Moscatello selvatico, il Moscato di Terracina e ovviamente il Moscatello di Saracena

Malvasia Bianca di Candia

The most important, 'Moscato' or 'Moscatello', is grown exclusively here and is supposed to have been brought by the Saracens from Maskat. Moscatello: an ancient local grape variety, also present in Locride under the name of 'Zibibbeddu' (small Zibibbo), although it displays the typical aromaticity of the Moscati family, it resembles neither the Moscato di Alessandria nor any other Moscato or Moscatello widespread in the rest of the peninsula.

Moscato is the term used to refer to one of the largest and most varied families of grape varieties, which has its origins in Ancient Greece. This type of grape was called in Greek Anathelicon Moschaton (from 'muscum=musk' because of its very characteristic smell reminiscent of musk) and in Latin Uva Apiana, due to the fact that it was eaten by bees because of its very sweet taste.

 Muscat has always been one of the most widespread grapes throughout the Mediterranean basin, and during the Middle Ages it also spread to Northern Europe, especially to France where it is called Musqué, and today is considered to all intents and purposes an international grape variety. In purity it is also used in the composition of 4 DOCGs: Moscato di Scanzo DOCG in Lombardy, Moscato d'Asti DOCG and Asti Spumante DOCG in Piedmont, and Fior d'Arancio Colli Euganei DOCG in Veneto.

In France, it is used to produce natural sweet wines (muted with alcohol), for example in the AOC Muscat de Beaume de Venise (Rhône region) and Muscat de Rivesaltes (Languedoc region), but also to produce a wine very similar to Muscat d'Asti: Clairette de Die (Drome region).

Muscat is a grape characterised by an intense perfume and a very sweet taste, making it an ideal variety for creating sweet and raisin wines, both still and sparkling, but also to be eaten as a table grape.

Nine different varieties belong to the Muscat family: Moscato Bianco, Moscato Giallo, Moscato rosa, Moscato d'Alessandria or Zibibbo, Moscato nero di Acqui, Moscato nero di Scanzo, Moscatello selvatico, Moscato di Terracina and, of course, Moscatello di Saracena.

uva guarnaccia bianca

Guarnaccia o Coda di Volpe Bianca

The white berry variety is native to Italy; the name means 'foxtail' from the shape of the berry. Synonyms are Alopecis, Cianca Rosa, Coada Vulpi, Coda di Volpe de Maddaloni, Coda di Vulpe, Durante, Falerno, Guarnaccia Bianca and Lisica Opasca Bjelaja. The parentage is unknown. According to one hypothesis, it is the descendant of the ancient vine Alopecis described by Pliny the Elder (23-79), whose appearance reminded him of the 'tail of a fox'. However, this common description applies to many varieties. The synonym Falerno also associates an 'ancient relationship', namely with the famous Falerno. It was first mentioned in 1592 by the scholar Giovanni Battista della Porta (1535-1615).



Two types of must are used for its production: i) must obtained from white grapes (Malvasia, Guarnaccia, Odoacra cultivars) boiled and concentrated to 2/3 of the original volume; ii) must obtained from Moscato di Saracena grapes naturally dried in the sun (20-30 days), selected by hand and lightly pressed (approximately 30 kg/hL of boiled must) .

  Fermentation is spontaneous and can finish in 3-4 months (mid-October to early February). After several rackings, a wine with unique organoleptic characteristics is finally obtained. This vinification method has remained unchanged since the 1500s and is similar to that of the 'Vino Cotto' produced in the Marche and Abruzzo regions.

In 'wine boiled', the must is hot concentrated and, after cooling, inoculated with fresh must to start fermentation.

Ageing in barriques or barrels imparts the tertiary, ripening aromas. During fermentation, it may happen that the acidity or colour needs to be corrected; in any case, temperature control in fermentation occurs spontaneously without human intervention, as the containers are very small and kept in very cool premises, so the product has a characteristic perfume acquired naturally. As for the grapes, Moscatello and Malvasia give the aromatic characteristics, while white Guarnaccia gives the greatest amount of structure, i.e. the specific character of the wine.

On visual analysis, Moscato di Saracena has a typical amber colour due to the formation of caramel during the partial cessation of sugars in the grapes. On sensory analysis, this wine presents a bouquet dominated by aromas of resin and cinchona root and, to a lesser extent, dried figs, exotic fruit, almonds and honey. The wine's taste is full-bodied, yet fine and delicate, with the intense flavours mentioned above. The finish of the wine is persistent with a pleasant bitter almond flavour. However, these characteristics can fluctuate greatly depending on the producer, the ratio of cultivars, technology, cellar conditions, etc.

The result, however, is a 'meditation' wine with a fine and elegant taste.

In the production of raisin wines, the fermentation phase is often crucial, as it is entrusted primarily to the microflora of the fresh must and secondarily to the cellar yeasts that can contaminate the cooked must during cooling.

Musts for the production of dessert wines are characterised by a high sugar content (over 300 g/L) combined with a high concentration of acids, polyphenols, metal ions and by-products of the Maillard reaction.

As if this were not enough, musts derived from sun-dried grapes can be heavily contaminated by moulds that can produce yeast inhibitors (e.g. botryticins) or risks to human health (ochratoxin A). Blocked or slow fermentations often occur during the production of this type of wine To overcome this problem, many winemakers use pure yeast cultures that are inoculated into the must after pressing. This oenological practice allows for faster and more complete must fermentation and a greater degree of reproducibility in the character of certain wines.

Commercial strains, although numerous, possess very ordinary characteristics that lead to the production of wines with standard qualities and do not possess the metabolic characteristics necessary to enhance the aromatic traits of wines that many yeasts isolated from specific geographical areas have been shown to possess. In recent years, considerable efforts have been made in the search for yeast strains that can improve wines in terms of colour, aroma, structure and other properties, including stability and food safety. The role of yeasts in wine production has therefore become complex and strongly associated with wine quality, and it is important to select yeasts suitable for each type of wine, region and even microclimate.



Moscato di Saracena was particularly loved by the Papacy, so much so that Cardinal Guglielmo Sirleto (custodian of the Vatican Library and master of Greek and Hebrew of the future St Charles Borromeo) had it shipped from Scalea in the 16th century so that it would never be missing from the table of Pope Pius IV (1499-1565) and it soon entered the list of wines in the Papal Enoteca.

Born in Guardavalle, the son of a Calabrian doctor, Guglielmo Sirleto received an excellent education. He was educated in Naples where he excelled in the study of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, philosophy and theology.

In Rome, he befriended cardinals Girolamo Seripando and Marcello Cervini, the future Pope Marcellus II. He became one of the latter's most trusted collaborators during the work of the Council of Trent.

When he became pope, Cervini appointed him custodian of the Vatican Library and entrusted him with the education of his grandchildren.  After Carafa's death, he retired to the training house of the Theatines (the order Paul IV had helped to found) in San Silvestro al Quirinale, where he became a Greek and Hebrew teacher, having among his pupils the future St Charles Borrom


arcivescovo sileri

Iacopino del Conte, Portrait of the Cardinal, Private Collection


The Presidium currently involves six producers. Common goals are the quality of production and maximum attention to the sustainability of the vineyards. The next step is to obtain the Denomination of Origin with the exemption of boiling.



Diana -  di Biagio Diana

Saracena (Cs)

Contrada Mileo

Tel. 347 3892928


Elisabetta Ferrara

Saracena (Cs)

Contrada Fiumicello

Tel. 0981 34008

334 1037724


Feudo dei Sanseverino

di Roberto Bisconte

Saracena (Cs)

Via Vittorio Emanuele, 108-110

Tel. 0981 21461

329 2674700



di Domenico Gallicchio

Saracena (Cs)

Contrada San Michele

Tel. 0981 34590

335 6237279


Domenico Pandolfi

Saracena (Cs)

Contrada Soda

Tel. 0981 349336

349 7914146


Viola - di Luigi Viola

Saracena (Cs)

Via Roma, 18

Tel. 0981 349099

340 1560166


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