You cannot leave the Cinque Terre without tasting the local wines. Wine making has been a crucial part of the history of the Cinque Terre and the vineyards on the cultivated terraces make this stretch of coastline so unique. When you hike up to a vineyard and look around the green terraces, that's when you'll understand the heroic winemaking and the essence of the Cinque Terre.
People have been making wine here for about a 1,000 years, on an extremely difficult terrain. The vineyards of the Cinque Terre are located on the steep hills and farmers have to go on a serious hike just to get to their terraces. Also, as you cannot use machines on the terraces, work is done by hand even today.
Since the 1970s there has been a significant improvement both in quality and quantity due to technical developments. A monorail system has been built to transport grapes, tools and people up and down the steep hills. The 50 small trains make the work and the harvest in the vineyards easier and more efficient, but it's still tough, you really need love and dedication to do it.
Both the white wine Cinque Terre DOC and the sweet dessert wine, the Sciacchetrá Cinque Terre DOC, are worth trying. On the label of Cinque Terre wines, you can see "DOC" (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) since 1973. This means quality wine with controlled origin and strict regulations. Cinque Terre wines are usually mineral with a straw yellow colour, with aromas of herbs and citrus fruits.
Sciacchetrá, the queen of Cinque Terre wines is made with the same three grapes. This delicious passito is made with the selection of the best grapes which are dried for about 2 months.
It is usually consumed as dessert with typical Italian biscuits (biscotti, pandolce, panforte) dipped into the wine. It is an expensive wine so people usually keep a bottle for special occasions like weddings. When a child is born, families usually get a bottle of Sciacchetrá and only open it on the child's 18th birthday.
If you would like to taste local wines, check out these wine tasting programs. If you are looking for a wine tasting with an expert, I recommend the sensory wine tasting in Manarola, done by an AIS professional sommelier. During the wine tours you can even meet the winegrower and visit his vineyard in four different locations: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Bonassola and Framura.
You can also visit a vineyard and a wine cellar on-line, just watch this video.
Italian gastrotrip: visit to the vineyard and wine cellar of Luciano Capellini.
Of course you can also taste different Cinque Terre wines in the local restaurants, or you can buy them in the cantina in Groppo or in the small stores of the villages. There are many small winemakers, usually making quality wine in small quantities, here are some of my favourites: Walter de Batte and Prima Terra, Terre sospese di Andrea Pecunia, Burasca di Cesare Scorza, Cantina del vin bun di Luciano Capellini, La Polenza di Stefania Basso.
If you would like to read more about wine in the Cinque Terre, I recommend the beautiful book of Catherina Unger, Vineyards with seaview. (Vigneti con vista mare). I love reading her words about the passion of local people for their land. She introduces all the winegrowers of the Cinque Terre, talking about their history, present and future plans as well. Catherina is a passionate photographer, her beautiful photos accompany the texts. The book also makes a perfect gift for someone interested in wine.