I had no idea what a Falanghina was before Byron over at Clime Wines sent me one. So, what better place to turn than the glorious pages of the Oxford Companion to Wine? (A must for anyone going through the WSET Diploma program. Or self-proclaimed super-wine-nerds…)
Falanghina: “…It produces attractive, unoaked, fragrant wines of real interest. Modern fermentation enabled producers to preserve its aromas, which gave it a new lease of life from the mid-1990s.”
The grape, if you can’t tell by the name, traces its heritage back to Italy. According to the Oxford Companion, there are two varieties: the less common Falanghina Beneventana of Benevento province and the “leafy-smelling” Falanghina Flegrea of Campi Flegrei, “Campania’s signature white wine grape…and is now the base for Falerno del Massico and Sannio DOCs.” It’s noted that the 2010 Italian vine census did not distinguish between the two when it counted more than 7,500 acres planted to the grape.
Well, there you go. But what about here in California? Well, if you do a search for it in the 2019 California grape crush report, you won’t find it, which means there’s probably so little planted that it falls into that “other white” category. But El Dorado County’s Viani Vineyard has some planted in a plot just overlooking the American River. The altitude, along with decomposed granitic soils, gives this wine a bit of a steely minerality mixed with its innate floral aromatics. And, contrary to what my encyclopedia says, winemaking utilizes a touch of neutral French oak as well, lending a bit of roundness in the mouthfeel to the very light-bodied wine, while lees aging adds a touch of complexity and structure.