We fell in love with the views of the wine terraces from our hotel in Manarola, so I decided we needed to do a Cinque Terre wine tour and try the local white wine. The Cinque Terre region is known for a dry white wine called Sciacchetrà, which is made from two types of grapes. While every resident of Cinque Terre has their own wine terrace, they are not all maintained and much of the wine that is produced in the region is sold locally. Because of that, you may not see sciacchetra on a menu outside of Liguria, let alone outside of Italy. (I highly recommend taking wine tours throughout Italy because there are so many different types of wines to try.)
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On our first trip to Cinque Terre, we took a a pesto class. Learning more about pesto allows us to be more discerning with our pasta. It became easy to recognize which sauces were fresh and which were store-bought. (Fresh pesto is the best pesto.) This changed our opinions on Cinque Terre restaurants and influenced our menu selections considerably. I figured that learning more about the local wine could better inform our wine selections, too.
One of my favorite things about traveling to Italy is trying the local and regional specialties. Cooking classes and market tours are great way to get a better understanding of the cuisine in an area. The more I learn, the better I am at trying new foods and learning to eat with the season and the region.
Cinque Terre Wine Tasting Tour
BOOK THIS: Manarola, Cinque Terre Winery Tour
BOOK THIS: Montenero / Riomaggiore Wine Tasting
Our wine tour was originally booked to depart from Riomaggiore. Two days before our tour, we received an email and text message saying that the Riomaggiore wine tour did not make. We were offered a wine tour in Manarola on the same day, at the same time, or we could opt for a refund. Since we were staying in Manarola as our home base, we happily agreed to the change.
We met Alessandro outside of a local Manarola restaurant right as the day-trippers started to descend upon Manarola. Alessandro is a Manarola native and a vineyard owner. We quickly found out that our new Cinque Terre wine tour would including both wine tastings and a walking tour. Alessandro checked our shoes and we set off towards the harbor. Right before we hit the harbor path, he diverted to lead us up a cliff side and away from the crowds in Manarola.
TRAVEL TIP: Wear comfortable shoes appropriate for hiking. The wine terraces are not a place for cute shoes.
Learn about Cinque Terre History
What sets this Cinque Terre wine tour apart is that it is more than just a drink with a view. (You can do that without a tour.)
As we climbed the hillside, our first stop was at the cemetery that overlooks the Ligurian coastline and the sea. Here, Alessandro explained that there are less than 280 native citizens left in the village. I touched on this in my post about where to stay in Cinque Terre, but essentially young locals are being priced out of the market because of tourist demand for short-term rentals. Many local families are forced to move to La Spezia, which is a larger city and has more affordable housing options.
We continued our easy hiking tour around the backside of Manarola, and Alessandro educated us about the wine terraces. As mentioned above, every resident has their own wine terrace. Yet, some are no longer maintained because it’s very expensive to do so. The drywall can cost more than $7,000 to repair. All the materials must be brought in and most modern technology cannot be used because of the steep terrain. This is true of most modern farming equipment as well. As a result, Alessandro has acquired a number of terraces because people know how well he cares for them. His vineyards are on the backside of Manarola, overlooking the quiet harbor where the locals swim and looking towards Corniglia.
Wine Tasting in Cinque Terre
I’m nowhere near an expert in wines, or even a wine lover, but I found this Cinque Terre wine tour fascinating. After thoroughly exploring the Manarola vineyards, you’ll head down the hillside and head to Alessandro’s wine cellar to learn more about how the wine is made.
Sciacchetrà is a bit of a temperamental wine. It can be heavily affected by the elements. Since it’s difficult to use modern technology on the wine terraces, Cinque Terre wines are a little more expensive than other Italian wines. It is not mass produced like Chianti and other Tuscan red wines. As a result, most of the wine that is manufactured in Cinque Terre is sold to local merchants and area restaurants. When in Cinque Terre… try sciacchetra.
The wine is comprised of three different types of grapes (Vermentino, Bosco, and Albarola). The specific percentages used are up to the individual wine producer. After showing us the different ways that he grows and harvests his grapes, Alessandro led us down to his cellar, which was only a block away from our hotel. (You would never know it from the outside.) He showed us how he meticulously checks the temperature to ensure that the wine is not fermenting too fast or too slow. His cellar has several large tanks where the wine is fermented and stored until he is ready to bottle it. Because space is at a premium in Manarola, he only bottles what he needs to deliver to local retailers. There is not much room for storage or exporting his wine.
Why You Should Book This Cinque Terre Wine Tour & Walking Tour
BOOK THIS: Manarola Vineyard Tour & Wine Tasting
It can be difficult to find local experiences in Cinque Terre, especially during shoulder or low seasons. One of the things that made this Cinque Terre wine tour outstanding was how much insight Alessandro was willing to share about Manarola, Cinque Terre over tourism, Cinque Terre restaurants, and of course, his wine. I really felt that Alessandro was able to go above and beyond the normal tour guide experience and have an honest conversation about his life and experience growing up in Manarola and seeing the rise of tourism in the Cinque Terre villages.
From the moment you meet him, you can see that he is extremely passionate about Manarola and sharing more about the local wine. If you’re willing to listen, Alessandro will shoot straight with you and answer any questions you have about the history of Cinque Terre. He also provides great restaurant recommendations, too!
Spoiler alert: These are not actually fishing villages! Book a Cinque Terre wine tour and tasting with Alessandro to learn the surprising (or perhaps unsurprising) origin of this popular rumor.
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