FALANGHINA: An Ancient Grape Variety
ANCIENT FALANGHINA—THE ORIGINS
Falanghina is an ancient white grape, reportedly of Greek Origin. Around the 7th century BCE the Greeks explored Southern Italy and determined that the climate was perfect for cultivating vines. They founded the city of Neopolis which is known today as Naples.
The grape is grown today in Italy in the region of Campania located on the west coast of Italy. The name, Campania, comes from a Latin phrase Compania felix meaning “happy land”.
FALANGHINA IN SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
It is appropriate that Falanghina is also now grown in San Luis Obispo County, home to one the happiest cities in the United States. Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi, proprietors of Giornata, have selected the ancient grape, Falanghina, for making wine in their amphorae. They have traveled to Italy multiple times to explore various regions of Italy to study the viticulture and winemaking of specific grapes, including Falanghina. Brian sources his grapes from Niels Udsen’s organic vineyards at Castoro Cellars.
CAMPANIA—ONE OF THE OLDEST ITALIAN WINE REGIONS
Campania is one of the oldest of Italy’s wine regions, dating back to the 12th century BCE. The history of the region is influenced by ancient empires including Greece, Rome and the Byzantines.
Archaeological excavations in this region confirm that there were a number of Roman farms established under Roman occupation. A vineyard from Roman times has been partially excavated. It is interesting to note that the grapevines were trained to grow up trees as well as on trellises made of willow poles. Many ancient varieties were planted and the area was well known for their excellent wines.
The wine known as Falernum or Falernian was the most highly-prized wine in Italy under Roman rule according to viticulture historian, Janis Robinson. Today Falanghina is the dominant grape in Falerno del Massico and Galluccio wines.
RESEARCH AT MT. VESUVIUS
Ancient writer and philosopher Pliny the Elder (who died in 79 A.D. in the eruption of volcano Vesuvius) praised the Falanghina wines for their honeyed sweetness. Scientists have found preserved grape seeds buried in the ashes of the volcano including varieties Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, Piedirosso and Algianico.
Campania is known for its volcanic soil, long growing season, varied climates and terroirs. There are more than 100,000 acres planted in grapevines. The Falanghina grapes grown inland on slopes with higher rainfall and cooler climate offer more fragrant notes than those grown on the more mellow areas of the coast. Single varietal Falanghina has a crisp and mineral character, often described as rich and uniquely joyous.