Masseria Starnali Maresa Roccamonfina IGP Falanghina 2016
Winegrower: Luigi di Biasio - Masseria Starnali
Region: Roccamonfina, Italy
Available: Fall 2017
Falanghina is one of the great wine success stories of Southern Italy and the signature grape of Compania. Despite being an ancient variety that was nearly wiped out by phylloxera, it has slowly risen from obscurity over the past 30 years to become a relative staple in the market. Unfortunately, and predictably, many wines that pass for Falanghina fail to show the grape’s real virtues. Today’s Maresa Falanghina is nothing like these wines and is a benchmark for true Falanghina. Crafted by Luigi di Biasio on his family’s biodynamic, mixed farm, Masseria Starnali, this wine is shockingly crisp, piercingly mineral, deliciously refreshing, and for a hot region, low in alcohol, clocking in at a mere 13%. Similar to the mineral-driven whites of the Loire Valley, but with more weight, aromatics and richness, it’s perfection personified and is outstanding with fish and seafood of all kinds, fresh cheeses, and cured salmon or pork tenderloin. Grown on a steeply sloped vineyard on the ancient volcano Monte Caruso, this wine sees only natural yeasts, stainless steel for fermentation and aging, and minimal sulphur. Difficult to find because of its small production, we are pleased to offer our limited allotment of this excellent wine for $25.
Roccamonfina is one of 10 IGP (aka IGT) wine appellations of Compania in southern Italy and takes its name from an extinct volcano that is the focal point of the region. Wines made under the Roccamonfina IGP focus on the region’s traditional grape varieties which for red include Aglianico, Piediroso and Sciascinoso, and for white include Fiano, Greco Bianco, Coda di Volpe and today’s grape Falanghina. Roccamonfina covers northern Campania stretching from the Mediterranean coast east to the central Apennine Mountains. People have been growing grapes and making wine here since the 8th century BC when the region was first colonized by the Greeks.
A stone’s throw from paradise! Located on the northern edge of an extinct volcano just north of Naples on the border of Roccamonfina National Park, a visit to Masseria Starnali is like a step back in time. After driving a desolate, winding, mountain road you arrive at the isolated farm that is Massaria Starnalli. But because the surrounding forest is dense the farm is not as isolated as you might think, and though modern amenities exist they are scarce and that is deliberate. Everyday life revolves around the 40 hectares of cherry, chestnut and olive trees, vegetable gardens, wild orchids and rose bushes, and the small vineyard. Massaria Starnali (Massaria means farm and Starnali is a small local pheasant-like bird) is a mixed farm that is also home to a few chickens and pigs. The estate also operates a beautiful country inn with rooms to let and a dining room where you can try the estates wines with delicious local dishes prepared by Maria Teresa herself, the inn’s proprietor, grand dame and matriarch of the di Biasio family.
Maria Teresa and her husband purchased Masseria Starnali in 1965 but their son Luigi now manages it. For 30 years they have grown grapes, but Luigi only started to make his own wine about 10 years ago. Everything in the vineyard and cellars is done by hand and no artificial fertilizers or chemicals have been used on the property since 1965; nothing like thinking ahead of your time. The farm is located in the foothills north of Naples not far from the Mediterranean coast. The vineyard, which sits on the northern slope of an extinct volcano, has volcanic soils mixed with clay and calcareous components. An elevation of 350 to 400 meters combined with the surrounding woods and cooling sea breezes from the nearby coast, provides a significant diurnal temperature range that helps boost the acidity of the grapes and produces wines, which are unique when compared to most Falanghina from Compania. All things considered, there seems to be a benefit to living in such an isolated place and tending your vineyards as meticulously as Luigi does.
The Maresa Roccamonfina IGP Falanghina 2016 was harvested in the third week of October. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks at 16˚. This was followed by malolactic fermentation and another 6 months of aging on the lees, both in stainless steel. The wine was then bottled unfined and unfiltered and aged for another 4 months before release. The wine tends to have more structure and complexity than most Falanghinas. It is golden in color with heady aromas of freshly cut yellow peach and white flowers. On the palate the wine is full flavored with peach, apricot, grapefruit, fresh acidity and a long but delicate saline finish. The Inn at the winery will serve this with a local chestnut soup with white beans and rosemary, or with a fresh tomato sauce sprinkled with pepperoncino. I suggest this tasty cioppino seafood stew which is made even better with a good pinch of added saffron. Share this wine with friends in a standard white wine glass at 10˚ and enjoy!