Falanghina, the queen grape of Campania winemaking

by Umberto Rusciano

There Falanghina is a white wine produced from the homonymous white berried grape which, in recent years, has had a great diffusion and rise, to the point of becoming one of the most popular wines on the tables of families and restaurants in Campania and Italy. It is widely spread throughout the region, with high quality expressions especially in Campi Flegrei, where it is still cultivated ungrafted with a subtype that gives light to wines that tend to be fresh, young and delicate (due to the sandy soil), in Sannio, where you have more structured and full-bodied wines, and sul Vesuvius (where it is often used in blends for the Lacryma Christthe White).

La Falanghina, l'uva regina dell'enologia Campana
Rows of famous Falanghina Mustilli winery, in the Sannio.

Uncertain etymology

With its widespread circulation, they were made multiple etymological researches and, although not yet historically ascertained, there are two the most accredited hypotheses behind the name of Falanghina: according to the first hypothesis it would derive from the Greek word "φάλαγξ “(Falags), used to indicate cylindrical sticks and woods, hence the Latin term "Phalanga" or the tall wooden poles used to support e lift the screws during breeding (to avoid direct contact with the ground and consequent mold); according to another hypothesis it derives instead from the Greek word "φαλάγγιον“(Falaggion), translatable as a type of grass, with a phonetics very similar to the current name. For a time it was erroneously used as a synonym for "Falerna grapes“, However, the result of a wrong interpretation of a text where it was compared to Falerno, but only to indicate the high quality.

The intuition of Leonardo Mustilli and the pure production

Despite its centuries-old presence in our territory, it would have reached Puteoli (Pozzuoli) through the Greeks, until the 1970s it was not highly valued. In that time international varieties were preferred compared to the autochthonous ones, with Falanghina which, when produced, was destined to be a “blending grape” for other wines, mostly destined for the Castelli Romani market, or was used for the distillery. Lyear zero for rebirth and the beginning ofunstoppable explosion quantitative and qualitative della Falanghina as we know it today, it was the 1979. In that year a producer from Benevento, Leonardo Mustilli (known since then as "the engineer of Falanghina"), Returned for about a couple of decades to the Samnite village of Sant'Agata de Goti where he founded the homonymous and still active Mustilli winery, produced and bottled for the first time Falanghina vinified in purity, or without the addition of other types of grapes.

La Falanghina, l'uva regina dell'enologia Campana
There first bottle made of Falanghina in purity in 1979, still preserved and exhibited in the family cellar Mustilli.

Contrary to what often happens, his was not a casual or fortuitous intuition, but the apex of a course of study and rediscovery of the local autochthonous varieties that Leonardo had started for years, planting and caring for rooted cuttings di Falanghina with the specific intent of focusing on this local white gold, despite the fact that it could be less productive and economical than the international varieties used at the time. His intuition proved successful. The fruit of that dream was a wine that convinced even the most skeptical, to the point of making the disciples change, and that it would have profoundly changed the oenological movement of Sannio. In fact, since then there has been a general rediscovery of local varieties and a tendency to exalt wines produced in purity rather than blended with other blends. A change that is not only technical, but identifying.

La Falanghina, l'uva regina dell'enologia Campana
Underground tuff cellar still in use and open to visitors Mustilli winery with bottles of different vintages and decades.

La Falanghina today

Today Falanghina is the most cultivated white grape in Campania; it falls under numerous protected denominations and is exported to many foreign countries and markets. Like many hidden treasuresthe it has actually always been there, under the eyes of all, waiting for someone to have the patience of believe in its potential and the courage to invest in it to elevate it and give it the opportunity to be, as it is today, appreciated and loved all over the world.

Umberto Rusciano

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