Italian Falanghina

Falanghina grape varieties are amongst the oldest cultivated in Italy for winemaking. In fact, it is believed that Falanghina vines were first brought to Italy by Greek settlers of the Campi Flegrei region north of Naples as early as the 7th century B.C. The etymology of the name suggests that this is the case;

“Falanghina” is a direct derivative of the Latin noun “falangae” which refers to the stakes used to support growing vines. Considering the ancient heritage of the Falanghina grape strains, it is somewhat remarkable through the centuries the term has remained literally unchanged, unlike so many other words with Latinate origins. For instance, the term appears both in agronomic inventories from the 16th century and in “Le Muse Napolitane” by the poet and philosopher Basile in the 17th century. Even then, subtle differences in the Falanghina wines produced in different areas of Italy hinted at the existence of two distinct grape strains, a supposition that has recently been confirmed by DNA analysis, which identifies two distinct grapes: Falanghina flegrea from the Campi Flegrie area, and Falanghina beneventana from the northern area of Italy.

With its distinctive character, Falanghina grape varieties quickly became a popular choice for wine-making throughout southern Italy, perhaps because of their affinity for local growing conditions. Falaghina grapes are most amenable to soil that is light, porous, and rich in minerals – the exact conditions that emerge in areas prone to volcanic activity. With a high altitude, the kiss of the Mediterranean sun, and cooling breezes, Falanghina vines thrive in volcanic areas, producing spherical berries with a yellow tint thickly coated with the pruine wax that helps them retain moisture and flavour.

Falanghina wines have a pale yellow or golden hue, balanced acidity, and excellent alcohol content. The flavour, which derives from the grapes themselves, rather than from finishing in oaken barrels, is evocative of apples, subtle spices, and a pleasant vanilla finish. Falanghina wine from grapes in Campi Flegrei has a fresh, mineral-pure taste, while those produced in the Caserta zone have a somewhat spicier flavour.

In recent times, the flegrea grape strain was almost entirely wiped out by phylloxera. However, in 1970 the Martusciello family discovered a few ancient stumps of the Falanghina flegrea grape that had escaped destruction, and began the time-consuming process of regenerating the strain. It is thanks to their commitment to bringing the grape back from near extinction that Falanghina flegrea vineyards are once again thriving. Today, Falanghina flegrea is the most popular white grape grown in Naples and Caserta, as well as the main grape used in producing DOC wines such as Falerno del Massico bianco, Galluccio bianco and Campi Flegrei Falanghina.

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