Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Italy Unit 15 - Molise

The following are my notes for studying the wines of the Molise region of Italy including information about the topography, climate, soils, important red and white grapes and extensive information on the DOCs and DOCGS of the region. I also include notes on the wines I tasted from this region.

Molise is located on the Adriatic coast surrounded by Apulia to the south, Lazio Campania to the west and until 1963 it was part of the same political region as Abruzzo in the north. The landscape is predominantly mountainous and hilly.

Molise is the second smallest only to Valle d’Aosta in terms of area, third smallest in terms of vines planted and wine produced behind Liguria and Valle d'Aosta and it has Italy's lowest total population. Because the production is so low, wines from this region can be very difficult to find in the USA.

Molise has a warm and temperate climate with significant rainfall throughout the year.
Molise has 2 Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) zones which are: Osco or Terre degli Osci and Rotae.
DOCs and DOCGs
There are 4 Denominazioni di Origine Controllata (DOC)s and 0 (Zero) Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)s in Molise. Less than 5% of the region’s production is at the DOC level.
1. Biferno DOC
Biferno DOC is the most prominent in Molise, it was established in 1983. Biferno wines are produced in the province of Campobasso. The primary white grape varietal is Trebbiano. The primary red grape varietals are: Montepulciano and Aglianico. Bianco must consist of a minimum of 70–80% Trebbiano Toscano. Rosso and Rosato must consist of a minimum of 70–80% Montepulciano and 10–20% Aglianico. During my study of Molise I tasted the 2005 Borgo di Colloredo Gironia, Biferno Rosso DOC, see the notes below.
2. Molise or del Molise DOC
Established in 1998. The primary white grape varietals are: Chardonnay, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, Malvasia, Moscato, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Trebbiano. The primary red grape varietals are: Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Montepulciano, Pinot Nero, and Sangiovese. Rosso and Rosato must consist of a minimum of 85% Montepulciano Spumante Rosso must consist of a minimum of 85% Montepulciano.  Spumante Bianco must consist of a minimum of 50% Chardonnay, Falanghina, Fiano, Malvasia, Montepulciano (vinified as a white wine), Moscato, Pinot Bianco, and/or Pinot Grigio. Passito must consist of a minimum of 85% Falanghina or 85% Moscato.
3. Pentro di Isernia or Pentro DOC
Established in 1984. The primary white grape varietal is Trebbiano. The primary red grape varietal is Montepulciano. Bianco must consist of a minimum of Trebbiano Toscano and 30–40% Bombino Bianco. Passito Bianco must consist of Rosso and Rosato must consist of a minimum of Montepulciano; 20–25% Tintilia.
4. Tintilia Molise DOC
Established in 2011. The primary red grape varietal is Tintilia.  Rosso and Rosato must consist of a minimum of must consist of a minimum of 95% Tintilia.
Key White Grape Varieties
French Varietals
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Bombino Bianco
Valued more for its generous yields than its aromatic qualities has a few nicknames such as Straccia Cambiale and Pagadebit (“the debt payer”) in reference to its reliably high yields.
It also referred to as Falanghina Greco and its name is derived from the Latin falangae for the “stakes” used to support the grapes in a vineyard. It is an ancient grape variety which may have provided a basis for the classical Falernian wine, which was favored by the Romans. Although it is found in Abruzzo it is more commonly found in Campania.
Fiano thrives in the volcanic soils of the Apennine Mountains and it is used primarily as a varietal wine. Fiano tends to have is aromas and flavors of tropical fruit like pineapple with nutty, floral, honeyed notes and spice. It can develop a sweetness that makes it extremely attractive to bees, as referenced by its traditional name, Vitis apiana (“the vine beloved of bees”). Fiano is best known for its dry wines but it is also made into passito dessert wines that are luscious and textured, developing dried fruit flavors of fig and prune.
Also known as Greco Bianco, it is an ancient, light-skinned grape variety thought to have originated in Greece but now grown throughout southern Italy, particularly in Campania and Calabria. Recent DNA profiling has proven that Greco is genetically identical to Asprinio, as it is known along the coast of Campania. It tends to have high acidity and a fresh, clean, grapey flavor profile but they also tend to oxidize in bottle relatively quickly resulting in nutty, caramelized flavors so they are best when consumed young.
lso known as Malmsey, Malvasier, Malvazia, Monemvasia. It is believed to be of Greek origin, the Malvasia family has been commercially important to the Mediterranean for more than 2000 years. Malvasia, the name, is a derivation of the coastal Greek town of Monemvasia. It is grown all over Italy.
Known as Moscatel in Spain and Portugal, and Muscat internationally it is one of the oldest and most widespread grape families in the world. It is believed to have originated in the Middle East and was grown by the ancient Greeks. Moscato Bianco (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) is the oldest and most highly valued of the Muscat family.
Pinot Bianco
Also known as Pinot Blanc in France and Weissburgunder in Germany, it is a mutation of Pinot Grigio (which is mutation of Pinot Noir), but it is more floral, steely and mineral-driven than Pinot Grigio, with aromas of white flower, beeswax and green apple and often fleshy and rich in its resiny, honeyed yellow fruit aromas and flavors.
Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio is closely related to Pinot Noir and is characterized by a greyish blue tinge in the grape skin. Elsewhere it is also known as Grauburgunder, Grauer Burgunder, Pinot Gris, and Ruländer.
Trebbiano is also known as Ugni Blanc in France where it is used to produce both Cognac and Armagnac. There are a number of varieties that bear the name Trebbiano but some of them are not genetically related. In Italy, Trebbiano Toscano is sanctioned for use in about 85 of the country’s 300+ DOCs.
Key Red Grape Varieties
French Varietals
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero).
Pronounced "ahl-YAH-nee-koe" but it is also known as Agliatica, Ellenico, Ellanico, Gnanico, and Uva Nera. It is primarily grown in the Basilicata and Campania regions of Italy. Structurally it is similar to Nebbiolo giving it the nickname “the Barolo of the South.” It produces wines with high tannins, high levels of acidity, and full-body with musky berry flavors.
Also known as Cordisco, Morellone, Primaticcio, Uva Abruzzo, and Violone The variety was named after the Tuscan parish of Montepulciano, but is no longer used to make wines in Tuscany. Nor should it be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made from mostly Sangiovese. It tends to have moderate tannins and medium tannins making it drinkable in its youth. It can age well but will not gain any more complexity. Abruzzo's finest examples of Montepulciano come from the region's north, in the Colline Teramane foothills.
Sangiovese derives its name from the Latin Sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove and it has several synonyms. In Chianti Classico it may be referred to as Sangiovetto, in Montalcino it is called Brunello, in Montepulciano it is called Prugnello Gentile and along the coast in Maremma it is called Morellino. "Sangiovese" was actually several "varieties" of clones which he broadly classified as Sangiovese Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo. The Sangiovese Grosso family includes the clones growing in the Brunello region as well as the clones known as Prugnolo Gentile and Sangiovese di Lamole that was grown in the Greve in Chianti region. Sangiovese wines in Tuscany tend to be light in color with sour cherry notes and herbal undertones. Structurally they are naturally high in acidity, firmly tannic, and medium to full-bodied. When aged, Sangiovese traditionally spends time in large European (often Slavonian) casks, but modern wines are just as likely to be aged in new barriques, which infuse both flavor and texture into the wines.
The name is thought to be derived from the Spanish word “tintilla,” referring to the stain left on tablecloths by its deep red juice (“Tinto” means “red”). Its relation to a number of grapes has been somewhat debated and thus far DNA tests have been inconclusive as to its origin. Tintilia vines produce medium-sized, egg-shaped berries in loose-winged bunches. During maturation, some berries will detach themselves, thinning bunches lowering the vine’s yield. Tintilia wines tend to a dark ruby-red in color with low soft tannins, high alcohol, and full body. They also tend to be highly aromatic and juicy nature with aromas and flavors of sour cherries, prunes, plums, licorice and black pepper.
Notable Wine Producers
Di Majo Norante
In 1968 Luigi Di Majo built a winery on his wife’s family estate and named it Di Majo Norante. Wine has been in at that estate since the 1800s and the old cellars still remain underground. It is now run by Luigi’s son Alessio and well-known enologist Riccardo Cotarella serves as a consultant. Their flagship wine is called Don Luigi Montepulciano Riserva. It is a DOC wine made from 90% Montepulciano and 10% Aglianico.

The Wines

While studying Molise I tasted the following wine:

2005 Borgo di Colloredo Gironia, Biferno Rosso DOC

This wine is a blend of 80% Montepulciano and 20% Aglianico. This is an opaque red wine, dark purple at the core to garnet at the rim with some signs of age with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it clean with moderate intense aromas of stewed plums, beef jerky, teriyaki sauce, light balsamic notes, black licorice, black olives, and a hint of cayenne pepper. On the palate it is dry with moderate tannins, moderate+ alcohol and a moderate length earth and spice driven finish. This wine sells for $19.99 at Enoteca Vino Nostro in San Francisco.

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