In this last post of my Spotlight on Southern Italy series I will be looking at both a rare white grape and a very tiny region. The wine region, Molise, is nestled between Abruzzo and Puglia on the east coast of Italy, and it is far enough north to almost be out of what many would consider to be Southern Italy. Molise is a mountainous and heavily wooded region and there are many wines being made in the mountains, although none currently are being imported into the North American market. In fact, most wines made here aren’t sold commercially at all, but made for and drunk by locals. This region is quite poor and so in order for the wines to start improving and being bottled, there will need to be some sort of investment from elsewhere. This producer is an exception to that general rule, and is actually making some pretty good stuff.
The three DOCs in Molise are Pentro d’Isernia, Biferno and Del Molise (which encompasses the entire area). The coastal regions have a very mild climate, with little rainfall in the summer, although this region is cooler than the other, more southerly, regions I have already profiled.
White wines are far less common in Southern Italy than the reds, but Falanghina is one of the more important white varieties. Mostly grown in the Campania region, it produces fragrant and juicy wines and does well in coastal areas. While this grape is blended most of the time with other indigenous grapes, it does come in a 100% form in varietally labeled wines like this one.
Di Majo Norante has its own estate vineyards near the ocean and the town of Campomarino. Even though it is situated in Molise, it makes its wines in a more Campanian style, and so they have Southern Italy at their heart. Di Majo Norante has been bottling wines since 1968 and makes several reds and whites, including some interesting sounding blends.
The nose on this wine was big and promised warm climate flavours with its aromas of ripe apple, tropical mango and guava. The palate was bigger and denser than the nose, with guava, burnt coconut, banana, and honeyed wildflowers. Despite the opulent flavours, the wine finishes very clean, and while this is a lower acid white, it has good structure and a significant and dry finish. The nose and fruit flavours are similar to an Alsatian Gewurztraminer but the opulence and richness of the wine is cut by a line of acidity and a very dry finish. In my mind, this is an extremely well made warm-climate white wine that is also an outstanding value.
Excellent and Highly Recommended Value
$23 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars
And so concludes my first theme in the “Spotlight” series. In conclusion, Southern Italy is producing many great values, although it still has a long way to go before it gets full respect. More investment, modernization, but also attention to detail and proper wine making practices will be necessary to catapult the regions of Southern Italy into the purview of the consumer of high quality wine and beyond the house wine at the local Italian trattoria. Sicily has probably come furthest and closest to this goal. Of course, several of the wines in this spotlight have shown the tremendous value that can be had from Souther Italy, and I think that over the next decade we will continue to see quality improve but prices stay reasonable, making the regions of Southern Italy worth watching.
I hope you enjoyed reading this spotlight as much as I did researching and writing it. If you have any suggestions for what you would like to see change or what future topics would be of interest, drop me a line in the comments.