Falanghina (or anything but pinot grigio)

For those of you looking for an Italian white other then the ubiquitous pinot grigio, Falanghina is your grape. Falan-what? Unless you spend a lot of time in Rome or Naples, you probably aren’t familiar with this grape but you should be at least on nodding terms with the wines that come from it. Falanghina is grown primarily in the northern regions of Campania and produces wines that are quite aromatic, rich and minerally. Campania encompasses Naples, the Amalfi Coast and that Mediterranean jewel, the isle of Capri, where I once had a lost weekend with some crazy Italian but that’s for another blog. Most of the vineyards are situated inland, on the hills of the Apennine Mountains, thus escaping the scorching summer heat while at the same time enjoying the ocean breezes. Perfect conditions for white wine production. Campania has been producing wines for over 2700 years when the Greeks first brought their vines over but it’s only been recently with the boom in Italian wine that this region has finally seen investment. In 1970, only 3 wineries were making wine commercially. At last count, that number had blossomed to over 120 wineries. We got an allotment the other day of a Falanghina ’06 produced by Epicuro. The wine was quite pale, a watery lemon-green colour was the best we came up with to describe it. But what a nose! So aromatic and intense. Passionfruit, papaya, very ripe banana, slight vanilla tinge. This had tropical fruit written all over it. There was a slight wisp of alcohol on the nose but it was more like an afterthought. I only noticed it after some time. On the palate, med-bodied, slightly waxy, and rich. Very fruity but dry, again with the ripe banana and tropical fruitiness but also some minerality around the edges, medium acidity and a clean finish. It was reminiscent of a New Zealand S. Blanc but it didn’t have that bracing acidity that is the hallmark of those wines and was richer...

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Aglianico Terredora

Even though it’s summer, I don’t think you should forget red wine and wait for the Fall to come around before opening another red. With that in mind, I popped open a red Italian this week. An Aglianico from Campania. While Italy is probably best well known for Chianti and Brunello (made from the sangiovese variety) and Barolo and Barabesco (the Nebbiolo grape), there are a lot of hidden gems available that are cheaper then the “biggies” but still give you bang for your buck. Aglianico is grown mostly around southern Italy in Campania and Basilicata. Like most Italian varieties, this one has been around for centuries and many people think that the Greeks brought this particular variety to Italy oh-so-many years ago because the name is a corruption of Ellenico, Italian for Greek. Aglianico is known for having high acidity and firm tannins – sounds like a perfect food wine to me. Not really something you’d want to drink alone (either by yourself or without food, even though it’s only 13% alc). The wine we had was an Aglianico Terredora 2005. Appearance: A dark, inky black color Nose: I really liked the aromas coming off this one. At first I got hit by this herbal, almost musky animal scent and then the aromas of black cherries, berries and a bit of spiciness, could have been pepper, maybe a bit of sweet spice as well. Mouth: Wow! I loved the silkiness of this one, it just coated my mouth with lots of black cherry and ripe black fruit flavors, a hint of toasty smoke and a nice mocha finish to it. The tannins were there but there were never too obvious. I was afraid that this was going to be a monster wine that would blow my taste buds out of the water.  But no, we had this with a big hunk o’ meat and it definitely stood up to it without laying waste to my palate.  As I said earlier though, this isn’t really...

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