Postcard From Sannio, Part 1: Falanghina del Sannio


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The author, trying to look even more Italian

Today we’ve got the first in a three-parter covering my media jaunt last year to Sannio, an important but still relatively under-the-radar winegrowing region in Italy’s Campania area.

[ Before we get started, however, I want to dedicate a moment of appreciation for one of our media traveling companions on that trip, Suzanne Branciforte, who recently passed away. She was an absolute delight of a person: elegant, smart, witty, and accomplished. It was a pleasure getting to know her for just the brief time that she was a part of our traveling group. ]

I’ve covered a bit of the background and history of Sannio before, but there is always, of course, more to tell when it comes to Italian wine, especially when you’re dealing with the characterful South. This earthquake-prone area sits in a higher spot of Campania, and it’s said that Sannio and Irpinia “don’t look to the sea.” Sannio has a long history and its small size and sparse population belies and outsized importance: more than half of Campania’s wine is produced here (but then, Campania produces only about three percent of Italy’s overall wine volume).

Sannio’s elevation (averaging 900 meters), its protected position (with regional parks and mountains surrounding it), and small rainfall amounts mean that it’s a great place for growing fine wine grapes: something that the ancients recognized a loooooong time ago. Samnites influenced the area, Etruscans brought viticulture, Greeks brought more advanced winegrowing techniques like vine training, and the Romans eventually brought even more wine know-how to the area. They also brought road making, which connected Benevento to Rome and increased the region’s winegrowing importance.

Interestingly, when the Longobards arrived in the 5th Century, they actually protected the vineyards in Sannio and Campania in general (probably the only barbarians to do so). They were followed by the Benedictines, who eventually gave the region the corkscrew winepress. In other words, Sannio has a steady history of prioritizing wine production, a fact that explains its current ability to sustain 200+ grape varieties, and a large number of producers and bottlers to vinify them.

Falanghina del Sannio

There are actually two distinct grape varieties that are part of Sannio’s signature white grape; Falanghina Beneventana and Falanghina Flegrea, of which the latter is considered the most important (though the former has a serious foothold in Sannio). Falanghina has gone from near extinction in the 1970s to today supporting four sub-zones, and as of 2019 new plantings have been strictly regulated (so we can now consider it off the endangered species list).

Here are some standouts from my visit, and they all embody the interesting character of Italy’s irrepressible south…

crowd pleaser

2022 Cantina Sociale Solopaca ‘Identitas’ Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, $NA

This fresh, direct, and tasty AF white comes from one Sannio’s best co-operative producers. Clove, pineapple, lemons, chalk and slate all make jaunty appearances here, and the palate exudes a lighter touch that makes it all go down very, very easy.


2022 La Masseria di Maria Taburno Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, $NA

Tropical, floral, and intense, this stands as an interesting contrast to the Identitas above and together they showcase the versatility of Falanghina. White figs, balsamic, and perfume provide counterpoint to a lovely minerality, but this white is dominated by its sultry body and ripe fruit action.


2022 Nifo Sarrapochiello ‘Fluusa’ Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, $NA

At turns friendly, refined, fresh, and boisterous, this Organic Falanghina is on a rage with its aromas and flavors of pine, smoke, saline, and yellow apples. If the first two selections above are examples of Falanghina del Sannio’s ability to be incredibly enjoyable, the Fluusa shows that it can be equally intellectual, as well.


2022 Il Poggio Fusco Famiglia Taburno Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, $23

This white is NOT fooling around. Lemon blossoms, citrus, and resin, all wafting in on a fine ocean breeze… The palate texture is equally as fascinating as the nose and the flavors, with acids that feel almost crunchy. A damned fine showing!


2021 Cantina Morone ‘Albanora’ Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, $NA

There’s much to like about the Albanora: ripe stone fruit action, floral tinges, tons of minerality and saline, and a great structure thanks to a bit of skin maceration. The finish is crazy long, too, and full of bruised yellow and green apple notes, and hints of resin and green herbs,


2018 La Guardiense ‘Cinquantenario’ Janare Spumante Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, $NA

This classic method sparkler spends fifteen months on the lees. Dried stone fruits, a very savory palate, almost leathery structure, impressive freshness, a lengthy finish of dried apple slices, apricot, citrus peel, and brioche… It’s very difficult not to be impressed with this!


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