With a pair of Australian reds back to back, it’s time to go a bit further afield. While you can expect tastings of whited to lessen in frequency as the chill sets in, and rosé wines may not be seen for months, it would be unreasonable to exclusively drink reds until spring arrives. (Yes, I’m in the Southern Hemisphere.) So today it’s a wine from somewhere that’s fairly warm already, the south of Italy, with this Corte Normanna Falanghina Sannio DOC 2007.
As I’ve said before, I find Italy both fascinating and confounding for the sheer variety of regions and varieties. I will never more than scratch the surface of its vast complexity, but with each wine and region I know a little more than I did, so it keeps me coming back.
Speaking of which, we’re back in Campania, which is in the southern half of the country, and we’re about midway between Rome and the instep of the boot. We were last here with a Greco di Tufo, but this time we’re in Sannio DOC which is a geographically much bigger area just to the north of Greco di Tufo. This masterful level of geographic information is straight off the De Long’s Wine Map of Italy, available from Vinodiversity.
The climate of Sannio is similar, if not identical, to Tufo, classic Mediterranean with plenty of sunshine. (I have seen central parts of the region described as more continental, but in this part of Italy it’s difficult to be more than 70km from the Mediterranean or the Adriatic so I’m not convinced.) The geography is hilly, and the DOC specification gives some particularly detailed descriptions of the geology, with dolomite and limestone rock sediments on the surface in some areas and clay and sandstone sediments in others, with soft rock underneath.
Falanghina is a local white grape, believed to be the grape of the Falerian wine which was all the rage in ancient Rome. It’s name is thought to be taken from falangae, the Latin term for stakes in the vineyard for holding up vines. It is little known outside of Italy, and even as an exported wine it is typically overshadowed by the two big Campanian white grapes, Greco Blanc and Fiano. However, with modern winemaking enabling better preservation of its fresh aromas, there has been increased interest in it. That said, I can’t find anyone who has planted it outside of Italy, so it hasn’t quite hit the big time.
As a grape, it is found in compact clusters of round berries which are typically covered in bloom. The skins are thick, and of a yellow-gray colour. It ripens from September through October. The vines are vigourous with average yields. It makes wines with a light body and moderate to high acidity.
Corte Normanna is a family owned producer based just south of the town of Guardia Sanframondi in the Sannio region and run by the brothers Gaetano and Alfredo Falluto. Founded in 1927 by a previous Gaetano Falluto, the company left the local cooperative winery in 1984 to set up their own production, with their first exports in 1997. The name is a nod to normal lords, the Sanframondos, who ruled the area from 1138 until 1460. They produce a range of products from locally grown grapes and olives. Their red wines are primarily Aglianico, with two varietal bottlings and two blends. They produce dry Fiano, Greco Blanc, and three styles of Falanghinas – a sweet passito dessert wine, and a charmant method sparkler in addition to this dry, still wine. They also distill grappas and press olive oils.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a medium straw colour, and a thin, quick film (as opposed to legs). On the nose, it’s clean, with a medium intensity (very closed initially) and aromas of yellow flower, honeycomb, lemon, and initially a slight nuttiness, though less later. It shows some development, but not fully developed. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus intensity, medium minus acidity, medium plus alcohol, medium plus body, and medium length. It has nutty notes, lemon preserves, and a bit of zest and minerality. It had a clean finish.
I’ve said before it’s difficult to judge quality with a wine variety and region that are unfamiliar, so it’s best to fall back to the formula of balance, concentration, complexity, length. (Typicity is part of the formula, but alas, not useful in this case.) It’s reasonably well balanced, though lacking acidity relative to its other qualities. It isn’t short on concentration with good intensity and alcohol. It has good complexity with both fruit and developed characters coming through, and the length was fine. I’m going to put this in the good category, though I would have liked more freshness either from a younger vintage or more acidity.
In terms of personal enjoyment, I really did like this wine. It’s a new variety for me, from an unfamiliar region, and as something of an unknown it did not disappoint. Well matched with fish or chicken, it carried the meal with which I paired it, and I’d be happy to have another bottle.