The Resurgence of Falanghina
Falanghina is an ancient Italian white wine grape that has grown in southern Italy for centuries. It is said that falanghina is the grape variety behind falernian, the most famous wine of Roman antiquity and the inspiration for Falerno del Massico. There has been a renaissance of interest in falanghina since the turn of the century and there is now a movement to restore the reputation of this once-venerated grape.
These are some of the oldest grapes planted in Italy for winemaking, dating back to the 7th century B.C. The name “falanghina” is a direct derivative of the Latin noun “falangae” which refers to the stakes used to support growing vines.
After its heyday in the Roman era, the wine became increasingly unpopular as it was regarded as being dull, flat and unperfumed. Falanghina began to improve in the late 20th century as it was better understood; investment in the vineyard and better winemaking techniques have transformed this once-unadmired grape, teasing out its beautiful fragrance and vibrant orange-peel inflections. These methods have transformed this once dimly viewed grape, elevating its fragrance and vibrancy. As a whole, falanghina is beginning to experience renewed success as more people take an interest in the wines of ancient Roman times.
The falanghina grape thrives in the Irpinian hills of Campania, to the east of Naples. The vines thrive in the porous volcanic soils around Mt. Vesuvius and the warm Mediterranean climate. The berries are yellow skinned and coated with a thin layer of protective wax.
Though it is increasingly fashionable, falanghina is not yet planted much outside Campania. There are few vineyards in Puglia and Abruzzo, but as yet no international production. Falanghina is often blended with other indigenous Italian varieties or produced as a sweet passito wine, but varietal expressions of this interesting grape are becoming more popular.
As a wine, falanghina can have a slight pine scent and is better known for its citrus blossom aromas, in particular, bitter orange. On the palate it typically shows classic apple and pear flavors, depending on where it is grown, with spicy or mineral notes. It has a refreshingly high acidity with an almond aftertaste, as is common with white Italian grape varieties. Falanghina can be found as a single varietal wine or as part of a blend. Wines are classified as either IGT, DOC or DOCG.
This wine is light enough for lunch, fresh enough to drink in the garden or tangy enough to sip with food. It is delicious with tomato-heavy Neapolitan dishes and is a joy with fish as well.