This is probably the most important and the most famous product of Cinque Terre. An incredible, liquor wine that is produced from the grapes that grow on the steep hills of Cinque Terre. The cultivation of this vineyards is so hard that the Sciacchetrà makers are called heroic viticulturists. So let’s see what they have to do to obtain this amazing wine 🙂
The first vineyards of Cinque Terre were introduced by antique Greeks (!) that settled these zone. Then the Romans improved the technics of wine production. In the Middle Ages were introduced dry stones that became an essential part of vineyards cultivations. Thanks to them it was possible to grow the plans on the steep hills of Cinque Terre. During the ages vineyards practically became the only plants that were cultivated in this area. At the beginning of the XX century, the zone of Cinque Terre was very poor but its inhabitants were very proud and prefered to remain in their villages and pass on the traditions of making Sciacchetrà. In 1920 insects called phylloxera destroyed almost the whole cultivations of grapes in Cinque Terre (!). Fortunately, in 1930 the vineyards were graft again in the zone. In the 70’s monorails that help wine producers with transporting the grapes were introduced. In the 90’s the production of Sciacchetrà started growing and nowadays became one of the most important elements of the whole Cinque Terre zone.
Where are located vineyards?
In Cinque Terre, the vineyards grow on the slopes of the mountains. That’s why mountainsides are heavily terraced there. The terraces are supported by retaining walls made by dry stone (muro a seccho). The dry stones are essential in Liguria because they prevent rock slides.
The origins of the name Sciacchetrà are not sure. Some experts claim that it comes from the Greek word “shekar” that indicated ferment drinks. However, the most common version is that the name Sciacchetrà comes from a dialect word “sciaàca” that means squeeze or squash.
Sciacchetrà = ∫iʌketrʌ
The real, authentic Sciacchetrà can be produced only in some the municipalities province of La Spezia. The majority of Sciacchetrà producers are concentrated in the villages of Cinque Terre. Sciacchetrà was recognized as a DOC wine (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) that is a quality assurance label for Italian wines. In Cinque Terre, there are 21 Sciacchetrà makers. More about Cinque Terre wine you can find here. My favourite Sciacchetrà maker is Azienda Agricola Possa from Riomaggiore 🙂 If you are in Riomaggiore it is really worth to meet Heydi, the owner of Possa vineyard 😉
Grapes varieties that are used to produce Sciacchetrà
Sciacchetrà is a fortified, liquor wine. The grape varieties that can be used to produce this wine are:
Bosco grapes (min 40%) – typical grapes from Liguria
Albarola grapes (max 40%) – local grapes from Liguria
Vermentino grapes (max 40%) – white grapes with a very intense fragrance, very common in Liguria and Sardinia.
How is Sciacchetrà produced?
When grapes are ready to be picked up, the harvest starts. It is really hard work. The vineyards are situated on steep slopes and you have to be careful not to fall down from terraces (there is about 1,5-meter height difference between terraces!). To make the things more complicated, the grapevines are short and very often you have to stay on your knees or even in a recumbent position to pick up the grapes 😉 !!!
After selecting the prettiest and the best grapes that are destined to become Sciacchetrà they are positioned on special gratings and left for drying.
It is about one or two month that they stay in a dry and fresh place. After that period the dried grapes are shell away from bunches. They are all taken away by hands (!).
Then the dried grapes are squeeze/squash (often by foot). From this process of squashing the grapes probably comes the name of this liquor. Then everything is moved to the metal kegs. They stay there for about one or two months.
After that period the liquid is moved again. This time to the wooden barrels. But what happens with all grape skins?
First, they all go squeeze again by using a special machine for pressing called “torchio”. In this way, the Sciacchetrà makers can obtain some more liquid. Then when the grapes skins are completely dry they can be used in producing some strong alcohols like grappa.
After the pressing process and moving to the wooden barrels, Sciacchetrà remains there for at least one year. After that period it can be bottled and sold. Exists also Sciacchetrà Riserva DOC that is aged for 3 years before it is bottled.
Even if it a the liquor wine it is not too sugary. Its flavour is very difficult to describe. It seems to be a little bit dry however it is sweet at the same time. You can drink it while eating a dessert, cheese or even drink it as a meditation wine. Absolutely amazing experience!
Cinque Terre don’t have much space. That’s why the producers of Sciacchetrà can’t produce great amounts of the liquor. Only a few thousands of bottles of Sciacchetrà are produced each year in Cinque Terre.
Because of a lot of heroic work that is needed to prepare Scchiacchetrà and because the quantity of the liquor is very limited every year, the price is quite high. The cheapest bottles cost about 30€ for a 0,375l bottle. However, the good quality Sciacchetrà starts from 50€ for a 0,375l bottle. If you find an aged, regular Sciacchetrà (5 years old for instance) it can cost 130€/150€ for a 0,375l bottle. And then, you can find also Sciacchetrà Riserva that starts from about 100€ for a 0,375l bottle.
Well, Sciacchetrà is quite expensive but if you think how much time and hard, handwork you need to produce each bottled probably you will realize that it is quite cheap 🙂 In any case it worths every euro spent on it! And if you are looking for an authentic, typical souvenir from Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà is the best thing that you can buy.