Terra di Bargon Sciacchetrà, photo courtesy of Martino Buzzi

A sweet wine produced in the hills of Cinque Terre, Italy, Sciacchetrà is typically paired with desserts or cheese. Central to the identity of this region, families have been passing down this winemaking tradition for generations. In order to appreciate Sciacchetrà, I must first share a sweet tradition of my own with you.

A Tradition: It Begins In The Past

Traditions hold together family histories and leave behind the legacy of our lives. In my family, we have a very special tradition we share once a year on Good Friday. It began about twenty years ago when my Grandfather was itching for a delicacy his Grandmother used to make on Easter called Abietz, a type of bread that Italians cook for the holiday.

Abietz – an Italian Easter Bread. Photo courtesy of Jessica Yeager.

While the recipe for this special bread was never written down, my Grandfather remembered the signature ingredients: mozzarella, locatelli, pecorino romano, prosciutto, capicola, soppressata and over 18 eggs per loaf. He began experimenting on his own, eventually finding just the right proportions to make the savory provision he always remembered.

Proud of his delicious accomplishment, he invited all the grandchildren over to learn how to make Abietz for the upcoming Good Friday. Interestingly, he put a unique twist on the tradition: he barred any adults from joining the event.

“Kids only!” he’d said, with an ear-to-ear grin.

And so it began, an Italian Grandfather and his seven grandchildren cooking the past right into the present. We made twelve large rectangular loaves of bread that year, sharing them with family and friends.

During one of our Good Friday cooking sessions, I remember my Grandfather telling me, “Jessie, one day I’m not going to be here anymore, but I never want you to forget me. That is why I started this tradition—not only so you will remember me, but so our family legacy will always live on. You will make this with your children one day and they will make it with their children and what we began together will live on for generations.”

Pop-Pop, as I called him, is gone now; yet his legacy continues, just as he hoped it would.

Proudly checking on the Abietz
Pop Pop proudly checking on the Abietz. Photo courtesy of Jessica Yeager.

A Tradition: Links The Past To The Present

The law of attraction says we draw to us whatever we think about. Always thinking of my Grandfather, his pride in our Italian heritage and our beautiful family tradition, it isn’t coincidental that I somehow find myself in Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre, with its face of beauty, has a soul brimming with its own distinct family traditions. As I have come to learn, families have been passing down the art of making a special dessert wine, Sciacchetrà, for generations.

Looking down on the beautiful Vernazza in Cinque Terre courtesy Jessica Yeager

While tourism is a current driving force behind Cinque Terre’s economy, long ago it was based substantially on winemaking. Incredibly, the mountainous coastline was turned into terraced vineyards by way of dry stone walls. Two types of wine have supported the livelihood of this region—Cinque Terre D.O.C. and Sciacchetrà D.O.C.—but it’s the Sciacchetrà that captures my attention.

Resembling dark rum, the amber-colored wine is smooth and silky. Hints of honey, apricots and figs dance on your tongue. As you sip, a burst of flavor reaches your palate—and the tastes of Vermentino, Bosco, and Albarola grapes explode in your mouth.

Sciacchetrà, photo courtesy of Martino Buzzi

After a laborious harvest, the wine is crafted with precision and detail. Every grape chosen is meticulously inspected and tossed for even the slightest blemish. Drying the grapes into golden raisins — a time consuming process known as ‘passito’—concentrates the sugars and natural essence. The Bosco grape is responsible for most of the flavor, as its thick skin allows it to raisin well and preserve the juice inside. Slow fermentation follows for at least two years until finally, the sweet Sciacchetrà is born.

Lining the shelves of local enotecas and listed as an after dinner drink on restaurant menus, it’s a must-try for anyone wanting an authentic cultural experience when visiting Cinque Terre. I still remember the first time I tried the drink, sitting with a local friend from Cinque Terre.

“A spirit lives within each bottle—the current winemaker and all those that came before him,” he’d said. “This wine represents the hard work that families endured for generations to sustain an economy and preserve a family tradition.”

Sciacchetrà winemaking is a long standing tradition in Cinque Terre. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He spoke about this wine with such passion. Smiling, he told me to bring a bottle home for my family to “bring them good luck.”

Looking around the vineyards, I immediately notice the older age of the workers. Sadly, the younger generations have left the fields to find other jobs in town. If you look into the hills you will see dry walls crumbling, overgrown vineyards and collapsed terraces. It seems a thousand-year-old tradition could be slowly disappearing.

Who will preserve the generations of history connected to this wine when the current generation of farmers simply cannot do it anymore?

A Tradition: Carrying It Into The Future

All it takes is one, as my Grandfather proved, to save a tradition and push its story into the future. Good Friday cooking of Abietz is still a big event and even includes the adults now, although the kids — now grown — still do most of the work. Pop-Pop handed down a recipe that has strengthened our family and connected the generations together again. The next wave of children is already learning the art of cooking this special bread in hopes that they too will share it with their children one day.

Growing up in Cinque Terre, children no doubt observed their parents and grandparents making this wine. While this younger generation has chosen to travel different paths in life, they still hold the memories, experiences and knowledge of Sciacchetrà. The day will come when one of these youths will get the desire to taste the wine of their ancestors and begin a new chapter of Sciacchetrà winemaking.

For now, we can still enjoy the sweet taste of Sciacchetrà from the current winemakers who continue to produce it with passion and fortitude.  Salute!

Sciacchetrà, a local specialty from Cinque Terre, Italy
Photo courtesy of Erica

Next time you are visiting Cinque Terre, support their sweet tradition and order a glass at the end of your meal. Or, if you’re like me, buy a bottle or two and bring it home to share.

Have you ever had Sciacchetrà? What family traditions do you carry forward?

Tip: Visiting Italy? Don’t miss’s unique nonprofit-led tours that benefit local communities. Some suggestions:

Also Check Out:

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One Hundred & One Beautiful Small Towns in Italy [Great Reads]


About The Author

Jessica Yeager is a Jersey girl, pure and simple. But it’s her love of world travel, meeting new people, and exploring sun-drenched elsewheres that takes her beyond state lines. A teacher by day, storyteller by night; she enjoys sharing tales of her adventures that inspire and awaken the traveling spirit in others. She loves this quote from Maya Angelou — When you learn, teach. When you get, give. Stop by her blog, Traveling Through Life, to read more from this Jersey Girl.

Jessica Yeager

Jessica is a Jersey girl, pure and simple. But it’s her love of world travel, meeting new people, and exploring sun-drenched elsewheres that takes her beyond state lines. A teacher by day, storyteller by night; she enjoys sharing tales of her adventures that inspire and awaken the traveling spirit in others. She loves this quote from Maya Angelou -- When you learn, teach. When you get, give. Stop by her blog,
Traveling Through Life to read more from this Jersey Girl.

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  1. What a beautiful article, Jessica. Your Pop Pop’s legacy lives on in the hearts of all of his grandchildren!

    1. @Mom: We will never forget our roots because of Pop Pop!

  2. Esther Spickler

    Jessica, I’m a PA and NJ girl now transplanted to Texas. My parents and brother were born in Italy, the Abruzzi region. I’d love your family recipe if you would please share it!!
    Grazie !!

    1. @Esther: Greetings from New Jersey! My family is from Naples (Campania) and I believe we have roots in the Abruzzi region as well!

  3. A different spin on a wine article! Love the focus on the family traditions and your story about your grandfather! Creating family traditions creates those bonds that won’t be forgotten! Well done!

    1. @Maureen: Family traditions are so unique and special! They truly bridge the gap between the generations.

  4. Beautifully written. She has the gift. And she is passionate about Italy and her family–all of which come through clearly in the article. Well done.

    1. @Aunt Margaret: Thank you so much!

  5. Do you have a recommendation on where to buy a bottle or six? Also, do you remember how much it cost?

    -A former Jersey girl

    1. @Brittney: Which village will you be staying in? The villages are very walkable, so you’ll be able to easily find it, no problem 🙂

    2. Ah, Sciacchetrà!. I’ve been interested in trying this wine for quite some time. As a homewinemaker and being very knowledgeable about wine, this obscure wine has really intrigued me. I understand that it tastes a bit like ‘Vin Santo’ the sweet late harvest amber colored dessert wine from central Italy or like sweet sherry. According to my research, this wine is a late harvest wine and that being the case, the grapes are at the whim of nature. With a late harvest wine, the grapes are left on the vines well after the traditional harverst time to concentrate the sugar and acids and thus the ‘must’, the grape juice that’ll eventually become wine will have a brix (the degree of sugar in the juice) of anywhere from 28-34% as determined by a hydrometer. The average sugar at harvest for dry table wines is anywhere from 21-25% and ferments to about 12% alcohol – `13.5% alcohol. With Sciacchetrà and Vin santo as well as all late harvest wines, they are produced only when the weather conditions are perfect and in limited quantities, unlike regular table wines. Also, this wine is basically consumed locally, is made in small quantities and very little of it is imported and in fact it’s rare to find it even in Rome, a mere few hundred kilometers away.

  6. Hi Jessica
    Thanks so much for writing this article, beautifully written and so interesting! My wife and I visited the Cinque Terre last year me absolutely loved the area. I purchased a bottle of the Sciacchetra Doe 2009 and have resisted drinking so far! Do you have any notes from any wine tasters on when the optimum time to drink this amazing wine would be? Thanks and regards

    1. @Paul: Unfortunately we don’t have notes from the winemakers; however, in our own research we’ve heard about 6 years is a good amount of aging time. Enjoy!

  7. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found your post! The Cinque Terre is a special place to our family, as my paternal grandparents were born and raised there before venturing to NY. My dad is first generation and we have visited the region many times! Sciacchetra is the freaking best! I have had it growing up, but nothing beats drinking it in Riomaggiore 🙂 Tradition is huge in our family, so your story about your Pop-Pop and ‘abeitz’ was really touching, as we have a very similar tradition around Easter! Thank you for helping spread the word about this deliciously amazing wine and my families home town! I think I’m due for a trip just to bring some of this home with me!

    1. @Amanda: Thank you for the kind and thoughtful words. Sciacchetra truly amazing. That trip idea sounds like the perfect plan 🙂

  8. Hi

    Enjoyed reading this article as we sat on abalcony in Riomaggiore and enjoyed reading about the local Cinque Terre culture. Your article contributed to my understanding, thank you.

  9. Francisca Herrera Crisan

    This a beautiful article, story, and lesson about how to take care of a tradition and how to transform it into a living and loving bound for the future generations! Thank you so much Jessica for sharing this! And of course, I’ll try as soon as possible the Sciacchetra ….with an Abietz as a pairing option inspired on the recipe defined by your wise and generous grandfather ! Cheers

  10. Thanks a lot for your article. I visited the Cinque Terre with my three daughters last year and we enjoyed the Sciacchetra in Vernazza. What a joy! I so want to go back with my husband next year. How do I share photos?

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