A few months ago, I braved the utter hellishness of I-76 rush hour traffic (along with several other fine Philadelphia-area wine pro folks) to attend a media dinner at the venerable Old City restaurant Panorama. The star attraction? Wines from Italy’s Sannio DOC in Campania.
Sannio was awarded DOC status in the 1990s, though its winegrowing history, like much of Italy’s, dates back much further. The ancient Romans conquered the area (now in the province of Benevento) in part because they coveted its fertility. After several centuries, things are still fertile in Sannio, and they’re able to grow a crap-ton of different grape varieties. Two, however, are the undisputed stars of its production: Aglianico (for reds and rosato), and Falanghina for whites. According to their Consorzio Tutela Vini, Sannio produces a whopping 90 percent (daaaaaang) of the world’s Falanghina.
For the future, many producers in Sannio are looking to higher elevation plantings to hep them mitigate the impacts of global warming. Having said that, their present isn’t too shabby…
This Metodo Italiano style bubbly is basically a party in a glass, with an extra shot of elegance. Fun, figgy, fruity, and mineral, it’s a delicious introduction to what the Sannio region has to offer.
Apparently, Falanghina also takes well to traditional style sparkling production, as this bubbly demonstrates. Toasty, perfumed, floral, citric, vibrant, and brimming with brioche, white fig flavors, and minerality, it’s damned good.
Sourced from vines grown at about 1,000 feet elevation, this tropical white is young, super fresh, and needs both food and time to shine. At the moment, it’s still a formidable sipper, full of white flowers and nutty aromas.
Another higher elevation white (farmed at 2,000 feet above sea level), La Fortezza’s Falanghina amps up the complexity with bruised yellow apple, banana, lemons, lime pith, wet stone, and saline. And man, is this ever fresh, fresh, fresh in the mouth.
Thanks to Aglianico’s ample color and tannins, it doesn’t really need much skin contact to create a rosato, and this one is crafted entirely from free-run juice. Incidentally, the name Aglianico derives from a Hellenic Greek term (a clue to its origins). Rose petals kick this off, followed by aromas and flavors of cherries and currants that are tart and delicious.
Big, savory, spicy, powerful, and yet energetic, this red sports both an impressively long finish and just-as-impressive (and just as big) flavors of black fruits and red plums. Muscular and very, very fun to drink.
Large and IN CHARGE! This is a big, bodacious red that isn’t afraid to show off its powerful body and ample palate structure. Tangy, meaty, chewy, and just screaming for a pairing with skirt steak.
A nice showcase for Falanghina’s versatility here. Yeah, it’s a late harvest dessert wine, but it comes off as almost dry thanks to having a ton of acidity (and excellent palate structure). Citrus peel, apricot, honeysuckle, and awesomeness.