With summer temperatures and humidity soaring, I’ve been drinking mostly cool white wines for the past couple of weeks. Sadly, a surprising number have been neutral and boring or too heavy to refresh. But not this 2010 Vesevo Beneventano Falanghina “V” from Italy’s Campania region, which is mouth-filling but also fresh and vivid. Its flavors are pure, crisp citrus and tangy minerals yet it has a lovely honeyed finish. Aromas of piney woods, white flowers and juicy pears tantalize.
The wine was so satisfying as an aperitif with a classic caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil drizzled with olive oil that we just kept drinking it with grilled shrimp and veggies. And it’s only $16.
One of Italy’s greatest strengths as a wine country is its hundreds of fascinating native grapes with distinctive flavors. Those in Campania have ancient origins as they were brought to the region by the Greeks some 2,500 years ago. The vast majority of grapes are red, but falanghina is one of Campania’s most interesting whites. Though it isn’t as widely planted as better known and more assertive Fiano, and in the past was often blended with other grapes, more and more top producers are now bottling it as a single varietal.
Vesevo, a project of Valentino Sciotti, who also owns wineries in Puglia and his native Abruzzo, is named after the nearby famous volcano Mount Vesuvius. Its falanghina vines are grown on steep slopes at 1,500 feet above sea level in the Irpinian hills northwest of Naples. This Benevento area is also known for tobacco, San Marzano tomatoes and Mozzarella di Bufala. The volcanic soils seem to impart a mineral character to the wine. Cool nights and no oak aging keep the fruit bright and juicy.
Glasses of falanghina are what you sip in all the cafés along the Amalfi Coast, my idea of a summer heaven. Drinking the 2010 Vesevo V on a hot, still night almost took me back there.
Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”