Falanghina, the historical white grape of Campania but with alternating commercial stories, is present in the region in two forms, or “biotypes” to be technical: the Samnite and the Phlegrean one.
Two ways of interpreting wine, two territories with different stories that have marked the character of people and their way of being.
Today we will tell you something about the first one, or about what is the emblem of viticulture in the Benevento area.
We are at the centre of the ‘boot’ (Stivale), the area is in fact equally close to Abruzzo and Puglia, not far from Lazio, therefore perfect for being a point of passage and exchange, and therefore enrichment, of populations and goods.
The grapes that gave life to the ancient and mythical and exceptional Falerno wine probably came from this area, with strong Greek and Balkan influences due to exchanges with Puglia on the transhumance (seasonal stock migration) routes.
The fortunate position of the area also gave great economic advantages to the local merchant class, capable of exploiting the large “indigenous” productions by bringing them together towards the port of Naples to reach all of Europe.
Returning to Falanghina, the origin of the name is interesting, which is probably due to the fact that being a very vigorous vine it had to be supported with poles, called “phalanx”.
Another point of pride is the fact that it is one of the grape varieties less sensitive to phylloxera attacks.
Currently it is probably the most cultivated white grape in Campania, surpassed only by Aglianico (red), and two thirds of the dedicated areas are present in the Benevento area.
There is another absolute certainty, very special, that must be mentioned: when we talk about Falanghina del Sannio vinified alone and elevated to be a great wine, we can, and must, quote a universally recognized “father”: Leonardo Mustilli.
The commercial success of this wine is actually quite recent, also in function of the change in the tastes and ways of consuming wine, but it all started in the seventies, when Leonardo Mustilli imagined a new life for this wine.
Falanghina, in perfect harmony with its vigorous vegetation, was also capable of producing 400 quintals of grapes per hectare, a disproportionately large quantity, often linked to the distillation or production of light white wines, almost always together with other grapes.
The innovations introduced by Leonardo Mustilli, who passed away in 2017 at 88 years of age, related precisely to the processing of this grape alone, the drastic lowering of the yields on the field and an attention to quality never seen before.
In a few years, Falanghina del Sannio imposed itself on the oenological critics, also thanks to the work of other “pioneering” producers of quality, making the area one of the most important for both Campania and national viticulture.
Almost mythical, for every wine lover, the tasting of the first vintage of Falanghina in purity bottled by Mustilli, and the first ever in history (at least the modern one), told by Luciano Pignataro in his blog.
In 2011 the elevation to DOC, Denomination of Controlled Origin, for Falanghina del Sannio DOC, produced in different types, Dry, Sparkling Wine, Quality Sparkling Wine, Classic Method Quality Sparkling Wine, Late Harvest, Passito, in the entire territory of the province of Benevento.
As further proof of the importance of this grape variety, and the link with the production area, four “Subzones” with specific characteristics were also selected: Guardia Sanframondi, Sant’Agata de ’Goti, Solopaca and Taburno.
What’s better than going to taste a nice glass of Falanghina del Sannio DOC accompanied with classic spaghetti with clams?
Although for many it is a perfect match also for Neapolitan pizza, at least in the versions without tomato.
Or, when we can start to move again, we can go and have an experience directly at the company listening to the stories of the producers. The Mustilli winery also has the first place for wine tourism in Campania, but viable alternatives include the Cantina di Solopaca, a large cooperative, hit hard by a flood in 2015, that knew how to be reborn, or the Antica Masseria Venditti with agritourism and the possibility to book guided tours with tastings.
However you go, the journey to discover Italian wines and their territories is an experience that will help us build our future together.