F’ing Falanghina

Naples

Naples

So I was at a trade show in Naples in 2014, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius (the dangers I won’t brave for my customers!), tasting through wave after wave of insipid whites and overoaked, over-extracted reds.  Then I came to a table where a kindly old lady, who spoke no English and barely any French, offered me a pour of her Falanghina.

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Now, I have to admit that I’m not usually a fan of Falanghina.  Most are flabby and uninteresting, primarily reserved for the Anything But Chardonnay crowd.  So I was really caught off guard when I tasted this, it really caught my attention.

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High up on the sides of Mount Taburno, at 350 meters  (1148 feet) in altitude, in the Benevento Province of Campania, Anna Rita Fontanarosa tends her densely-planted vineyards using age-old techniques, without additives or chemicals.  For all intents and purposes, she is practicing Organic.  The land here is volcanic, with calcareous soils laced with tuff and clay.  In winter, it’s very cold, and in summer it’s very hot, just the right weather for the perfect balance between fruit and acidity.

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At harvest, all the grapes are hand-picked and fermented and aged in stainless steel.  At bottling, there’s barely any fining or filtering, as Anna Rita wants to maintain the purity of the expression of the soils.  Both her whites and reds reflect this philosophy, with bright fruit, pronounced minerality and lovely acidity balancing everything out.

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Anna Rita’s Falanghina del Sannio is a stunning example of the what the grape can do in the right hands.  Bright but light, with yellow apple, pear and white flower notes, the wine starts off rich but is then balanced by a light saber of minerality and acidity, leading to a long grippy finish.  A truly outstanding high-altitude volcanic white wine that will make you believe in Falanghina again.

And her reds don’t suck either, lovely Sannio Aglianico that we’ll bring in for Fall.  But right now you can sip some gorgeous Falanghina while waiting for her other wines.  You can see more pictures here: Cantine Fontanarosa.

Cheers!

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