tory by Manos Angelakis
Falanghina, is an ancient grape variety of vitis vinifera used in Southern Italy for white wines. It is cultivated mostly in Campania, north of Naples, and the wine is commonly consumed in all of Southern Italy. The vines thrive in the warm Mediterranean climate and the volcanic soil around Mt. Vesuvius. Though, as a wine it is becoming increasingly fashionable in Italy, Falanghina isn’t yet planted much outside Campania.
Sannio (Roman, Samnium) is a hilly region of Campania, with a wine-growing history so ancient that it is mentioned in the works of Pliny and Cato. Some say that the Falanghina of Samnium may have been the grape used to make Falernum, one of the most highly regarded wines consumed by the aristocracy of the Roman Empire.
The first time I tasted Falanghina was accompanying seafood, during a journey a couple years ago through Lazio, the region southeast of Rome, also known in Italy as the Ulysses Coast. According to Italian mythology, that was the area where Ulysses and his sailors were marooned on their way back to Ithaca and where they met The Cyclops, Circe and had many of the adventures described in the Odyssey.
Falanghina is a light, refreshing and bright wine that is especially good in hot weather. Sitting at a sea-side restaurant in Sperlonga, eating a fresh-from-the-sea char-broiled squid with tempura of zucchini flowers on a crispy romaine lettuce salad and drinking Falanghina, with its lingering finish of citrus and minerals… that’s the kind of repast that makes the hassles of traveling worth it!
The Savanna 2005 Sogno Due Falanghina I had a few weeks ago at home, accompanying fresh pasta with a light marinara sauce, came alive in my mouth. It is created in Campania by Roberto Cipresso, one of Italy’s most prominent consulting winemakers. It is made from ungrafted vines that average between 70 and 85 years old; it is fermented at low temperature in steel tanks, and doesn’t see any oak.
By now, a white 2005 vintage Italian wine would be considered over the hill. Don’t you believe it! When I opened the bottle, I got a whiff of what the top German Riesling producers call “a petrol nose”. If the German experts consider that as a sign of a high quality wine, I don’t see why a Falanghina aficionado should not consider Falanghina excellent as well. What I can say is that presently, this wine has character, depth and complexity. Once the petrol nose subsides, this gold/greenish hued wine is crisp with white fruit, pear and apple flavors. The initial taste is smooth as silk and is surprisingly full bodied. There is a well balanced citrus and minerals finish, not too tart, not too sweet.
Another Falanghina that I came across in my local wine store is the one from Feudi di San Gregorio, and I found it to be especially good with some Neapolitan-style seafood pasta dishes. Labeled as “Falanghina del Sannio” it is a very aromatic DOC wine, straw-yellow colored with greenish reflections, that pairs perfectly with lighter summer dishes, especially squab or quail but is also excellent with a grilled trout or a seafood salad. It is well balanced, with an almost salty fruity acidity that would make it an excellent aperitif.
The Cotroneo family’s Fattoria La Rivolta makes the Taburno Falanghina del Sannio. This wine is farmed in an organic vineyard without the use of chemicals and is made from hand harvested 100% Falanghina grapes from a superior wine growing zone. Stainless steel fermented, this wine has seen no oak, and the aromatics will attest to the fact. Priced between $13 and $17, it offers an especially intense nose of freesia, pear and melon. In the mouth, the wine’s tropical and pear fruit flavors segue to a distinctive, vibrantly perfumed mid-palate minerals and citrus. It finishes clean with a reprise of the wine’s tropical fruit and mineral nuances.
At a recent vintner’s diner at The Leopard at des Artistes inNew York City, we had a chance to taste a couple Falanghina wines from the DonnaChiara winery that paired very well with the restaurant’s cuisine. One was the Beneventano Falanghina IGT, made from 100% Falanghina grapes. It is a charming, straw/yellow-colored wine, mildly aromatic, herbal with acacia and citrus aromas. The palate was soft but dry, with a long mineral and citrus ending. A perfect spring or summer wine!
The surprise at the start of the dinner was the Santé Sparkling Falanghina aperitif, made in the Charmat-Martinotti lungo method. This was the very first sparkling Falanghina I’ve ever tasted. It is a spumante sparkler; the grapes are harvested on the first 10 days of every October. It is bright and florally delicate with a fine perlage and a nose of citrus with notes of toast. As enjoyable as any Prosecco.
On a separate note: The food at the Leopard is quite authentic; Sardinia and Sicily, Naples and the Campania hills are not an ocean away anymore. The most important thing though is the successful restoration of the Howard Chandler Christy murals. Kudos to the Sorrentino family that now own the space. Extensive cleaning has removed the nicotine and grime that clad the bodies of the cavorting nymphs, revealing abundant nubile flesh.
There are many other good Falanghinas in Italy, but in the US this wine is not widely imported. Look for a Falanghina at you wine store for the coming summer season, it would be well worth the effort.
© April 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.