Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Molise Region
The Molise Wine Region
Main Article Contents
Territory and viticulture in Molise
Molise is a small region, with a total area of 4,438 Km2, mostly hilly ( 45% ) and mountainous (55%). The vineyards are threfore located between hills and canyons. The total vineyard area is only 6,400 hectares, mainly in the province of Campobasso, with a production of around 350,000 hectoliters p.a. The vineyards are 58% placed in mountainous areas and 42% on hills. The highlands between the Abruzzi and Sanniti Apennines give the region a semi-continental weather, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. Along the coastal strip temperatures are milder, with modest temperature fluctuations and low rainfall. Two are the reference areas for breeding of the vines: the first, largest, meanders along the valley of the river Trigno (on the border with Abruzzo) and the Biferno valley; the second is placed in the interior, around Isernia. The traditional vine training called Pergola is disappearing in favor of the more modern spurred cordon and espalier.
The history of viticulture in Molise
The winemaking tradition of Molise dates back to the third sec.aC , at the times of the Romans and the Samnites. Pliny the Elder first mentioned in his works the wines of Isernia. Very few traces are left about viticulture in Molise during the medieval and renaissance eras. The first quotation of the Tintilia grape variety dates back to the first 800s. From the viticulture point of view, Molise is still searching its identity, having been up to fifty years ago administratively united with Abruzzo in one single region. Today Molise wines are placed not only geografically between those from Abruzzo and those from Puglia, acting as a link between the oenology styles of the two regions. The autochthonous black grape Tintilia is an expression of the revival of Molise’s viticulture.
The vines of Molise
The grape varieties grown in Molise resent much the influence of the neighboring regions, as Campania, Apulia (Puglia), but mostly Abruzzo, whose territory Molise was part of until 1963. In this region the most interesting wines are red, among which those made from the indigenous variety Tintilia (Tintilia del Molise DOC). Other grape varieties are typical of neighboring territories: Montepulciano and Aglianico are the most important red grapes, as Falanghina, Trebbiano (Toscano and Abruzzese), Greco, Bombino bianco and Malvasia the ones with white berries. The Sangiovese grape is used alone or in blends with Montepulciano for the production of the wine Pentro DOC Rosso. Among the International varieties, Chardonnay , Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are the most common in the region.
The production and appellation areas in Molise
In Molise (2018) there are 4 DOC (PDO) and 2 IGT (PGI) appellations. The Biferno DOC and Pentro o Pentro d’Isernia DOC were established 1983, followed by Molise o del Molise DOC , 1998, and Tintilia del Molise DOC, established 2011. Osco o Terra degli Osci IGT and Rotae IGT, date from 1995. In the region there are also two agricoltural PDOs, one for the Extra virgin olive oil, Molise DOP being the other the ubiquitous Salamini Italiani alla Cacciatora DOP.
- The Biferno DOC is named after the main river of the region, located at the foot of the Matese, the mountain range on the border with Campania. The production area covers 22 municipalities in the province of Campobasso and along the river. The Biferno DOC wines can be red (also Superiore and Riserva), rosé and white, obtained from Montepulciano (70-80%) and Aglianico (15-20%), while white wines are produced with blends based on Trebbiano toscano (60-70%).
- The Pentro o Pentro d’ Isernia DOC is named after the ancient population of Pentri, “the people of the mountains”, the most important of the Samnites. The production area covers 16 municipalities in the province Isernia. The Pentro wine is produced as red, rosé and white, a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese from one side and Trebbiano Toscano (60-70%) and Bombino bianco on the other. Back in 2012 Pentro was an almost virtual DOC, with one producer and a production of 3000 bottles grown to 8000 in 2009.
- The Molise o del Molise DOC covers almost the whole territory of Molise, with a large number of types and wine varieties. 5 styles are included in the disciplinare: red (also Riserva), sparkling, raisin wine, and Novello. The Red Riserva must be produced with minimum of 85% from Montepulciano grapes. The riserva can be classified as such after a minimum aging of two years, including six months in oak barrels. Other varieties are Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese as red; Falanghina Chardonnay, Greco, Moscato bianco, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon and Trebbiano as whites. The Novello can be produced with Montepulciano alone. The fizzy wines may be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Moscato bianco as varietal wines with a minimum of 85% for each grape variety. The sparkling wines with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Moscato bianco all with a minimum 85%
- The Tintilia del Molise DOC area was before 2011 included as a wine type in the Molise DOC. The production area covers now many municipalities of the Lower Molise, Valle del Biferno, Fortore and Trigno areas , the Central Molise, Upper Molise and Valle del Volturno. The wine styles allowed by the disciplinare are red, rosé and red reserve all made from grapes Tintilia by at least 95%. The reserves must have a minimum of two years aging.
The Molise regional cuisine
The Molise cuisine is a very simple one, with recipes based on few simple local ingredients. The most common meat is from sheep and lamb, or pork, often used for sausages. Even the fish recipes, along the coast, are based on locally caught fish (mostly blue fish).
Traditional of Molise is the use of lamb meat. In mountainous areas there are various types of polenta, often served with vegetables. Very popular is the home-made pasta from durum wheat, in different shapes such as orecchiette, lagane, cavatelli, Macaroni alla chitarra and others. Very rich is the variety of appetizers, made with raw or oil preserved vegetables (peppers, onions, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and many others). Among the vegetables, Molise produces various types of broccoli and cime di rapa, as well as celery and peppers. Fried bread crumbs (often mixed with herbs) are used as a sauce for pasta or vegetables. The desserts are mostly simple and often decorated with with almonds. Widespread in Molise are traditional of nougats and crunchies.