Posts tagged ‘falanghina’
Falanghina, planted in all five provinces of Campania, has been a remarkable story over the past decade, its identity shifting from a simple high acid wine to one of richness and beautiful complexity, thanks to a handful of the region’s vintners.
One of those winemakers is Vincenzo Mercurio, with whom I had the pleasure of spending a day with in Irpinia during my recent trip to that area. Mercurio was winemaker at the historic Mastroberardino winery for a few years last decade and recently began his own consulting firm; today he is winemaker for such Campanian estates as I Favati, Fattoria La Rivolta and Masseria Felicia.
He also handles those chores at a small winery in the Avellino province called San Paolo. Mercurio has made Falnghina there for several vintages, but decided to specialize in this variety a few years ago when he made a more detailed study of the soils from the area in the Benevento province where the grapes are sourced. Benevento, located just north (and northwest) of Avellino, has been known for Falanghina for some time now and is the site of the Sannio DOC for the variety (the province of Avellino is better known for two other Campanian white varieties, Greco and Fiano).
Mercurio saw that in a 1/2 square kilometer area where he sourced Falanghina for San Paolo, there were four different soils; tasting through the various lots, he decided he would vinify and bottle them separately. He did this initially with the 2008 vintage and named the four bottlings of Falanghina: Aria, Acqua, Terra and Fuoco (air, water, earth and fire).
I tasted the new 2009 releases of these four wines side by side with Mercurio at lunch at Ristorante La Marcanda in Avellino and was impressed not only with the winemaking, but the individual character of each wine. Here are Mercurio’s descriptions of the soils:
Aria - argilleous-calcaire soil with a lot of rocks in the soil
Acqua – sandy soils from a river region
Terra – the soils are deep clay
Fuoco – sandy soils but with volcanic influence
Mercurio adds that the first two wines are “more aromatic in nature, while the last two are more structured.”
Tasted in order, the wines increase in concentration – you’d want to consume the Acqua within a year or two, while the Fuoco should have staying power for 3-5 years. Complexity also increases, as the Terra has a chalky finish, while the Fuoco displays the strongest minerality. All of the wines are extremely well balanced with bright fruit and vibrant acidity, a trademark of the variety.
Each wine was harvested at approximately the same time and vinified the same way (with sur lie maturation) and aged solely in stainless steel, so this is a fascinating expression of terroir with one variety from a meso-climate. Natually, these wines are quite limited in production (only about 1000 bottles each), so they will only be available in Italy for the near future. But what a remarkable project that will surely influence other producers and vintners throughout Campania and will result in even higher quality bottlings of this wonderful variety, Falanghina.
In a few weeks, I’ll be at VinItaly, the huge wine fair held in Verona over a period of five days. Besides being able to taste wines from all over Italy, a major benefit of this event is to sample brand new releases, from be it big reds from Toscana or Piemonte or beautifully crafted whites from Alto Adige, Liguria and Friuli.
As readers of my blogs and articles know, I’m a passionate fan of the white wines of Campania. I’m currently working on a print article on these offerings, which has given me the oppportunity to catch up on some wines I first tried almost one year ago.
The 2008 whites from Campania are in a word, lovely. There have been several impressive vintages for the whites of this region lately, going back to 2004, which produced wines that were quite rich. The wines from 2005 were a bit more subtle, while the 2006s were in-between the 2004s and 2005s in terms of weight. 2007 was a superb vintage with excellent concentration and very good acidity levels.
Following that wonderful year, the Campania whites of 2008 were not as rich, but offered beautifully defined acidity and outstanding aromatics and in my opinion, are more typical than the bottlings from 2007. When I first tasted these wines, I was delighted with their quality, but now after another 9-12 months in the bottle, they are showing brilliantly. So while trying wines upon release (or even a month or two before the official release) can be eye opening, trying them again after some time passes is a great example of how a little evolution can help define what a wine is all about. (To argue in another way, the snap judgments on wine that dominate coverage these days from the smallest blogs to the most influential international wine publications may be necessary, but we all need to take them with a grain of salt. Time is the ultimate judge of a wine.)
A few of my favorite Campanian whites from 2008 include:
- Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi”
- Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
- Pietracupa Fiano di Avellino
- Terredora Fiano di Avellino “Terre di Dora”
- Mastroberardino Falanghina “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina “Serrocielo”
- La Sibilla Falanghina (Campi Flegrei)
- Giuseppe Apicella (Tramonti Bianco)
- Joaquin “110 Oyster” (Greco/ Falanghina)
- Luigi Maffini Fiano “Kratos” (IGT Paestum)
Each of these wines offers beautiful varietal character, lively acidity and admirable structure; each bottling will drink well for at least another three years, with a few showing their best qualities in as many as five to seven years from today. I would award each of these wines (and there are several more I haven’t listed) as excellent or outstanding. A few of the wines are priced in the low $40 range, but many of them are $25 and under, offering notable value.
So while I’m curious about the 2009 whites, which I’ll report upon soon, I’ll be enjoying the 2008 whites from Campania for some time to come.
Another entry from my list of the Top 100 Wine Producers of Italy:
In Camapania, where history and tradition play such an important role, new ways of doing things are certain to attract attention. When the Capaldos and Ercolinos founded Feudi di San Gregorio in 1986, their efforts did indeed garner a lot of notices – almost all good, signaling a new dawn for the wines of this region.
The winery is located in the hamlet of Sorbo Serpico in the province of Avellino, some 30 miles east of Napoli and the sea. This has always been the most important zone for Campanian wines, as the region’s three most famous offerings originate from this territory. Two are whites – Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino – and the third is a long-lived, robust red known as Taurasi.
For decades, the leading producers of Campania made low-key, subtle bottlings of these wines. But under the leadership of winemaker Mario Ercolino, the style here was shifted toward riper, more full-bodied wines. Greco and Fiano grapes were harvested 7-10 days later than usual, giving the wines deeper color and more pronounced tropical fruit flavors. Rather than the crisp, delicate manner of the usual offerings, the Feudi Greco and Fiano were very rich and forward.
As for Taurasi, Ercolino opted for aging the Aglianico grapes in French barriques (with a heathy percentage of it new wood), giving the wines more spice and tannins. A 100% Aglianico named Serpico was also introduced; this powerful, deeply concentrated red is a wonderful statement about the complexities and structure of this great Campanian variety. A 100% Merlot called Patrimo was soon added to the lineup; this made in a similar style to the Serpico.
Mario Ercolino and his brother Luciano left a few years ago to establish their own winery in Campania so today, Feudi di San Gregorio is led by the capable talents of Antonio Capaldo. He has maintaned the style of the early Feudi wines, making certain never to sacrifice balance for power. For me the finest wines in the current Feudi lineup are the whites, especially the cru bottlings of Cutizzi for Greco di Tufo, Pietracalda for Fiano di Avellino and the Serrocielo bottling of Falanghina. These whites are complex, deeply concentrated with rich aromas, lively acidity and excellent structure; these usually drink well for 5-7 years after the vintage. These are not only among Campania’s finest whites, but are also among the very best of Italy.
Current reds range from the delightful, value-priced 100% Aglianico named Rubrato, to the sumptuous Taurasi “Piano di Montevergine”, an impressive, ageworthy bottling that rates with the finest examples of this renowned wine. Sparkling wines have become the latest addition to the lineup; there are three bottlings, each made from a single variety: Aglianico, Greco and Falanghina. The wines are named DUBL in honor of the two wineries that work on this project, Feudi and their French partner, the great Champagne house of Selosse. Produced in the classic style, these are first-rate sparkling wines with lovely complexity and lighntess.
Feudi di San Gregorio showed the world the potential of Campanian wines when they made their initial bottlings in the 1980s and today, one quarter of a century later, they have followed up on that promise and have become one of the superstar wineries of Campania and indeed, all of Italy!
A red variety grown in Piemonte that literally means, “little sweet one.” Light tannins, balanced acidity and juicy fruit flavors of raspberry, mulberry and cranberry. Dolcetto produces a wine that is very charming and easy to drink in its youth.
White variety grown in north central Piemonte; the most famous example is Erbaluce di Caluso. High acidity and lemon fruit; versions range from a light dry white to a refreshing sparkling style.
Beautiful white variety of Campania, grown in various areas of that region. Very high acidity and fruit flavors ranging from apple and pear in the most simple bottlings to quince and kiwi in the best offerings. Generally not oak-aged, though a few producers do barrel age the wine.
White variety grown along the coast of Campania; very high acidity and flavors of citrus and pear. Usually part of a blend, along with varieties such as Biancolella and Ginestra.
Another beautiful white variety, most famously grown in Campania, though a few producers in Sicily work with it as well. Medium-full to full-bodied, this has fruit flavors of pear and citrus along with distinct notes of honey. Some versions are meant for consumption within 2-3 years, while the most concentrated offerings from the best producers can drink well for 5-7 years, thanks in part to the grape’s excellent natural acidity.
A red variety used in the production of Cerasuolo di Vittoria in Sicily. Cherry, berry fruit and very soft tannins. There are a few producers that bottle Frappato on its own.
Formerly known as Tocai Friulano, the name was changed to avoid confusion with the Hungarian wine Tokay (this was also done in accordance with European Community regulations concerning protected names of wines). One of Friuli’s great white varieties, with complex aromas of pear, apricot and dried flowers. Lively acidity and a light minerality.
Red variety of Calabria that is the principal grape of Ciro rosso. Raspberry and strawberry fruit with light tannins.
The primary grape of Soave. An underrated white variety with aromas of yellow flowers and melon with very good acidity. This grape is as misprounced as any – the correct pronunciation is gar-gan-ah-guh.
One of Italy’s great white varieties, grown primarily in Alto Adige. Gewurz means “spicy” in German – this then is the spicy Traminer. Gorgeous aromatics of grapefruit, lychee and rose petals with lively acidity and distinct notes of white spice. The best versions are quite rich, with some having an oiliness on the palate.
White variety grown along the coasts of Campania- especially in the Costa d’Amalfi DOC. High acidity and fruit flavors of pear and lemon. Usually part of a blended white of the area.
One of the major white varieties of Campania; flavors of lemon, pear and dried flowers with very good natural acidity and often a note of almond. Medium-full, this generally is not as full as Fiano, but is quite complex. Most famous example is Greco di Tufo, from the province of Avellino.
Beautiful red variety from Piemonte; almost no tannins, with refreshing cherry and strawberry fruit and very good natural acidity. Meant for consumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date.
White variety from Sicily; most versions are simple with pleasant acidity and flavors of pear and citrus. Grillo is produced both as a stand-alone variety and also as part of a blended white.
Red variety of Marche; most famously as Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. Medium-bodied with cherry, berry fruit, moderate tannins and good acidity. Produced both as a refreshing style for early consumption and a fuller style with more tannins and longevity.
One of Alto Adige’s most wonderful red varieties with intense color (often deep purple), youthful, but not overly aggressive tannins and very good acidity. Fruit flavors of black plum, black cherry and raspberry. Fruit forward and despite its richness, often quite approachable upon release.
Red variety most famously grown in Emilia-Romagna. Produces a lighter red wth cherry-berry fruit, zippy acidity and very light tannins. Best known in its slightly sparkling (frizzante) offerings.
This is part two of my discussion of white wines from Campania. The last post dealt with Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. This time around, I will discuss Falanghina as well as white wines from the Amalfi Coast.
Falanghina is another of the great ancient white varieties of Campania. The name comes from the word falerna, meaning “poles,” a reference to the system used by the Greeks more than a thousand years ago of attaching the vines to stakes, rather than having the vine directly in the ground. In the province of Caserta in northern Campania, Falerna is the local name of Falanghina.
The signature of Falanghina is its vibrant acidity; this is enhanced when the grapes are planted near the coast, as with the Villa Matilde estate in Caserta (Falerno del Massico DOC) or the Campi Flegrei DOC that hugs the shoreline just north of Napoli. Yet even inland in Benevento (Sannio DOC) and in Avellino, Falanghina maintains its healthy acidity.
This is a wine with lovely aromatics; apple and pear are most common, but today, the best bottlings offer greater complexity in their perfumes, including notes of quince, acacia, white peaches and even some tropical fruits such as kiwi or guava. As the aromatics are so special, most offerings are aged in stainless steel; an exception is the “Caracci” bottling from Villa Matilde.
The best examples of Falanghina available in the United States today include:
- Mastroberardino “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Serrocielo”
- Villa Matilde “Caracci”
- La Sibilla “Cruna deLago”
These cru bottlings are priced in the $22-28 range. However there are many fine examples of Falanghina labeled as Sannio DOC or Beneventano IGT that are less expensive, well-made wines (often priced in the mid-teens); these include bottlings from Mastroberardino and Vinosia.
Feudi di San Gregorio also produces a lovely sparkling Falanghina as part of its DUBL series, which is co-produced with the French Champagne firm Selosse. As you might guess from the natural acidity of Falanghina, this is a nicely structured wine; the aromatics of pear and lemon along with a light yeastiness makes for a lovely wine.
Given its high acidity, Falanghina is ideal with shellfish.
Everyone knows about the gorgeous seaside setting of the Amalfi Coast, but few realize this is an excellent wine zone as well (Costa d’Amalfi DOC). Here growers use the traditional pergola system of training the vines; in this system, the overhead canopy protects the grapes from too much sun.
Vintners along the Amalfi Coast work with several white varieties not found elsewher; these incude Fenile, Ginestra and Biancolella. Most of the whites produced here are blends, offering lovely aromatics (most notably citrus, pear and melon) with vibrant acidity. Usually non-oak aged, most of the bottlings are meant for consumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date; they are perfect with local shellfish such as vongole, the tiny clams from the sea.
Among the best producers of white wine from the Amalfi Coast are:
- Marisa Cuomo
- Giuseppe Apicella
- Tenuta San Francesco
Marisa Cuomo, along with her husband/winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, is recognnized as one of Italy’s finest white wine producers. Their most famous wine, Fiorduva, is a powerful Amalfi blend fermented in barrique.
OTHER CAMPANIAN WHITES
There are a few other excellent areas for white wine in Campania, including the island of Ischia, off the coast of Napoli. Here producers struggle with high winds and other conditions to make white blends from varieties such as Forestera and Biancolella. Top producers from Ischia include Pietratorcia and Casa d’Ambra.
In the province of Caserta, there are a few producers working with Pallagrello Bianco; this variety is quite unique in that the aromatics are not fresh melon and pear, but more along the lines of dried herbs, flowers (such as acacia) and a distinct nuttiness. These wines remind one of Campania’s past! Look for producers such as Alois and Terre del Principe.
Finally, a white variety named Aspirinio is grown in Caserta in northern Campania. The vines of Aspirinio in the Aspirinio di Aversa DOC are trained to poles and reach as high as 30 feet off the ground, meaning pickers must climb ladders to harvest the grapes. While a dry white and sparkling version of Aspirinio di Aversa is produced, the most famous version is the passito bottling.