FX Excursions

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Che Sopresa! Campania, Sannio Produces Wonderful White Wine

by Kelly Magyarics

Feb 15, 2024

© Kelly Magyarics

February 2024

For a country referred to as “one big vineyard” for the staggering amount of wine it produces, from the Veneto all the way down to Sicily, you can easily miss the expressions produced in any single region — especially one where the OG pizza demands your attention. But a few hours from Naples in Campania lies Sannio, definitely worth a daytrip or more to explore wines made from red Aglianico and a white variety that’s got appeal in spades.

Like much of Italy, wine has been made in Sannio for thousands of years. The hallmarks of excellent terroir bless the area: The 3,000-foot average altitude creates diurnal temperature swings that allow grapes to ripen slowly, retaining acidity and freshness; the mountains form a rain shadow that helps keep grapes concentrated; and the surrounding regional parks provide a de facto protection, from an environmental perspective.

white wine

© Kelly Magyarics

Falanghina is Sannio’s signature white variety, one that all but disappeared a few decades ago. Extinction would have been a tragedy, though, as the grape is capable of creating versatile, gorgeous wines including fizzy spumante and luscious passito dessert styles from drying the fruit on straw mats. In perhaps its most stunning iteration, that of a still wine, Falanghina shows hints of green apple, lemon blossom, eucalyptus and pine which evolve to peach, acacia and honey after a year or two of bottle age. But its most enticing characteristic is a mouthwatering salty tang which beckons you back for sip after glorious sip.

Cantina Morone, a certified organic winery in Guardia Sanframondi run by siblings Eleonora and Giovanni, remains a top producer of Falanghina del Sannio DOC. (There is a push among winemakers to also create a DOCG for Sannio Falanghina, a guarantee from the Italian government of even higher quality.) Lighter-bodied and easily quaffable, the 2022 Cantina Morone Identitas could be mistaken on the nose for a Sauvignon Blanc. The savory 2022 La Masseria di Maria turns up that herbaceousness; it’s also the winery’s most saline-forward expression, ironic since it’s produced farthest from the sea. The 2021 Alba Nora picks up a more golden hue, fuller body and lengthier finish from more skin contact during fermentation. But the standout in the Falanghina portfolio just might be the 2022 Il Poggio, with a chewy, gelato-like texture and salinity balanced with minerality.

While the United States receives a fair amount of Falanghina imports from Sannio (responsible for 85 percent of its global production), including bottles from Cantina Morone, there are others you just won’t find outside the region. That means now might be a good time to factor in a detour from Naples to the Campanian countryside during your next trip to southern Italy. (And for the record, zesty Falanghina proves a perfect match for pizza.)


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