Falanghina: A Geeky White Wine for Summertime

For those adventurous enough to try something outside of a glass of Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, we say Falanghina all the way!

Before we jump right into the history of the varietal and its flavor profile, let's start with the pronunciation. It's easy to pass over wines with intimidating names, and our recent introduction to this wine affirms that it is too good to pass up.

Falanghina = "FA-lan-GHEE-nah," with a hard "g" as in "geek." Not so bad, huh?

Find out more after the jump.

A brief history: Falanghina is an indigenous Greek varietal, and some of the oldest grapes planted in Italy for winemaking. It is believed that the Falanghina vines made their way over to Italy as early as the 7th century B.C. via Greek settlers. The name "Falanghina" is a direct derivative of the Latin noun "falangae," which refers to the stakes used to support growing vines -- not to be confused with phalanges -- any of the digital bones of the hand (or foot). That's what you will be using to support your wine glass where you maybe enjoying one of two distinct grape strains from Italy, Falanghina flegrea from the Campi Flegrie area or Falanghina beneventana from the north.
Although we will admit, Falanghina has not always been highly appreciated. It was once regarded as being rather dull: flat and unperfumed, but better winemaking techniques are transforming this once dimly viewed grape, elevating its fragrance and vibrancy. As a whole, it is beginning to experience renewed success as more and more people start to nerd-out over the wines of ancient Roman times.

Flavor Profile: Falanghina wines have a pale golden hue like the straw of hay. You'll find that the grapes in Campi Flegrei tend to have a fresh, mineral-pure taste, while those produced in the Caserta zone seem to have a somewhat spicier flavor. Generally you can expect to find balanced acidity with aromas and flavors suggestive of green apples, candied orange zest, subtle spices and seaside breezes. Absolutely perfect for a summer's day.

Best Regions: Falaghina grapes do best in soil that is light, porous, and rich in minerals -- aka volcanic areas. Its best expression is brought forth from the areas of Procida, Falerno del Massico, Campi Flegrei and Sannio.

Average price point to expect: $12-$20.

We've fallen for Falanghina and would challenge all Pinot Grigio lovers to give it a whirl, er, swirl. Get with the times. The ancient Roman times.

Do you have any favorite lesser-known varietals? Please, share with the class!

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Nicole Whittington