The Sannio Consorzio Tutela Vini and Brian Freedman invited me to attend a tasting and lunch to explore the wines of the Sannio region of Campania. The whites we tasted were Falanghina Coda di Volpe and Greco. The reds were Aglianico and Barbera (aka Camaiola). In this post I will discuss the white wines.
The Sannio Wine Consortium was established in February 1999 and today has nearly 400 members: vine growers, winemakers and bottlers.
Dr. Libero Rillo, President of the Sannio Consorzio Tutela Vini and owner of fontanAvecchia winery, and Domizio Pigna representing the region of Sannio discussed the Sannio wine region.
The moderator was Brian Freedman, wine, travel, spirts and food writer and Author of CRUSHED: How a changing climate is altering the wine we drink. Brian spoke about the wines. He kept the session moving right along with his sense of humor and his ability to get the audience to participate and share their thoughts on the wines which made it more interesting. He made appropriate and knowledgeable comments.
Sannio is a hilly region 50 kilometers north of Naples in the provinces of Benevento, the heart of the Campania region. It borders to the south with the area of Irpinia, to the north the region of Molise, to the east with the region of Puglia and to the west with the province of Caserta. Domizio said there are several sub-zones with the Sannio name on their wine labels: Sannio Guardia Sanframondi, Sannio Sant’Agata del Goti, Sannio Solopace and Sannio Taburno.
The White Wines of Sannio
Falanghina Del Sannio DOP “Euforia” Sparkling Extra Dry Cantina Iannella made from 100% Falanghia in the hills of Taburno. The vineyards are at 450 meters and the exposure is southwest and the soil is clay. There are 5,000 plants per hectare, the training system is guyot and the average age of the vines is 20 years. Harvest takes place the first ten days of September. The wine is made according to the Charmat method. This is a fruity fresh wine with hints if citrus fruit, a touch of lime and a note of almonds. Libero said there are over 100 wineries in Sannio and almost every one makes Falanghina. Over 90% of Falanghina is produced in Sannio and Falanghina has been grown in Sannio for more that 2,000 years.
Coda Di Volpe Taburno DOC made from 100% Coda di Volpe Elena Catalano. Vineyards for the production of Coda di Volpe DOC are subject to green harvest when the ripeness ranges from 20% 30% depending on the vintage. The grapes are green harvested in the second part of September and are soft pressed with gas protection to avoid uncontrolled oxidation. Then debourbage is done in stainless steel tanks. Alcoholic fermentation takes place at a low temperature and lasts about two to three weeks. Batonnage takes place in stainless steel throughout the process so the lees do not settle to the bottom of the tank. The wine ages for three to four weeks in the bottle at the end of winter following the harvest. The wine has hints of peach and pear, citrus notes and medium to low acidity.
Coda Di Volpe Sannio DOP IL Poggio made from 100% Coda di Volpe. The vineyards are at 300 to 400 meters and there are 2,500 plants per hectare. Harvest tales place the second half of September. Fermentation and aging are in stainless steel. The wine is bottled 6 months after the harvest. The wine has hints of yellow flowers, pear and nice acidity.
Coda di Volpe (Fox Tail) may be the Alopecis that Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD) wrote about in his Natural History because the curve of the bunches resembles the tail of a fox. It is also the principal grape in Lacryma Christi Bianco del Vesuvio. It does very well in volcanic soil.
Falanghina Del Sannio DOP “Vigne Sannite” Cantina in Castelvenere made from 100% Falanghina from the mount Pugliano slopes ay 300 meters. The soil is medium textured clayey. calcareous not droughty. There is a soft pressing of the gapes. The grapes undergo a filmic cryomaceration in an anaerobic environment for 24 hours. Fermentation lasts for 20 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel and then in the bottle. It has hints of citrus fruit, lemon zest, pear and a note of almond.
Falanghina del Sannio DOP made from 100% Falanghina fontanAvecchia. The vineyard is at 350 meters and the soil is argillaceous with lime rich marlstone outcrops. The training system is guyot and harvest is the third week of September. Vinification with direct pressing of the grapes at a controlled temperature. Fermentation lasts for 7 days. The wine is aged in steel before it is bottled. It has hints of citrus fruit, lemon, lime, melon with a touch of green apple. I visited this winery a few years ago on a press trip with Campania Stories and I am a big fan of Falanghina. This was my favorite wine at the tasting.
In his book, Brunello to Zibibbo (1999) Nicholas Belfrage states, “This grape (Falanghina), which some have suggested may be of Greek origin, and which some have tentatively identified as the grape from which Roman Falernian was made, has been known as Falanghina only since the 19th century. (A falanga… is a type of wooden stake used for supporting a vine; the suffix –ina makes it a small wooden stake.) The grape Falanghina is a late-ripener, which requires well exposed, sunny slopes and not-too-excessive production to shine, but when it does so it shines brightly, making a wine of good extract and flavor, with a firm acidic backbone enabling it to resist the passage of time in the bottle. It is a grape of real interest deserving wider national and international attention.” Falanghina still has not gotten the recondition it deserves.
Sannio Greco DOP “Albosco” Biovegan Fontana Reale made from 100% Greco grown on espalier farm land. The pruning is guyot with a double shoot. Harvest tales place from the third week of September to the first week of October. The harvest is exclusively by hand. Whole grapes are pressed in a pneumatic press without destemming and then put into thermorefreshable steel fermenters. White wine fermentation until the sugar is exhausted. There is a bentonite clarification of the wine. Aging is in steel for a minimum of 6 months then the wine is filtered and bottled. Fruity and floral aromas with hints of white peach, nice mnerality and a note of almond.
Ambrato Di Montelmalo Benevento Falanghina IGT Rossovermiglio Manual harvesting with a selection of the grapes. Vinification takes place with maceration of the must and the skins for seven days. Then draining and decanting in French oak barrels of second passage for two months. Aging on the lees in steel for 6 months. This is how the producer describes the wine: “At sight Ambrato di Montemalo has an intense yellow color tending to amber, with evident golden reflections. The contact of the must with the skins accentuates the aromaticity, which expresses intense scents of white flowers, chamomile, ripe fruit with evident shades of apricot and peach, orange zest and green almond, hints of white pepper, tobacco and vanilla. Its consistency, freshness and complexity make it a wine of excellent balance and extraordinary gustatory persistence. It is an advantage to uncork the bottle half an hour before tasting to promote oxygenation.” This same “orange” process is done with Greco grapes. There was some controversy over this wine some saying they liked it while others said it did not taste like Falanghina at all.
Here is a reply from the producer of the wine:
I am the producer of Ambrato di Montemalo, I confirm that our orange always offers interesting arguments for tastings, it is precisely for this reason that perhaps it was chosen in the panel.
Our Falanghina is produced with 100% falanghina grapes, the maceration with the skins accentuates the characteristic notes of the Falanghina grape, and what you find in the glass is 100% Falanghina with all its specific characteristics.
I’m sure it will never be the same as Falanghina made with 85% Falanghina and 15% other blends, but these aren’t original.
Ambrato di Montemalo is a 100% Falanghina macerated with the skins, the others are blends created to satisfy all tastes.
Thank you very much for your article, the next time you come to Sannio I’ll wait for you in my cellar.
I have been drinking and enjoying the wines from Campania since I first visited there over 50 years ago and hope to be there again in February.