Monday Musings: Europeans Drink Way Less Than We Do

I just got home from a trip to Italy with my son. While I wasn’t visiting vineyards, I was checking out the location wine scene. I was in Milan where I used to live for 10 years –  a city I am very attached to and where I feel completely at home. I stayed and visited with loads of friends and on every occasion noticed that the one who drank the most was always me. Neither proud nor ashamed of that fact, I am conscious of how much less Italians drink than Americans. Mind you, I wasn’t out at cocktail bars sipping on a Negroni or a Spritz, just having lunches and dinners with friends. Yet it was remarkable after one maybe one and a half glasses of wine, they were done. A friend thought I was ridiculous ordering a bottle of wine, the above bottle for the two of us. Many of these friends are also part of the Italian Sommelier Association as well. No one is abstemious. It did give me pause for thought about what I consider normal amounts of wine to be consumed. Just a note about the Falanghina del Sannio above. It comes from a company that makes wines throughout Italy called Vini Cantine Pirovano.

They seem to have numerous brands from all over Italy and at least one estate in Oltrepo’ Pavese. The Falaghina was a nice, low key wine that paired well with our pizza.

I’ve had a lot of great Falanghina in my lifetime. Falanghina as we know hails from Campania, and is thought to be of Greek origin and was first mentioned in 1825. In the past this vine was attached to spikes which were also called Falanghe and apparently that’s how the grape got its name. It received its DOP status in 2011 and takes into account all of the towns in the Benevento province or 78 municipalities. To have Falanghina del Sannio on the label, 85% of the wine must be made with this grape. One can also use the sub-region name on the bottle, if their vineyards are in one of the five sub-regions: Guardiolo, Solopaca, Solopaca Classico, Sant’Agata de’Goti, and Taburno.

It is used in many denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) wines in the region including, among others, the Campi Flegre D.O.C., Guardiolo D.O.C., Penisola Sorrentina D.O.C., Sant’Agata di Goti D.O.C. , Solopaca D.O.C., Taburno D.O.C. and Falerno di Massico.


Falanghina is a lively white grape variety that has great body, beautiful color and a floral and fruity bouquet on the nose and palate. I’ve always found it to have some sapidity as well which I enjoy. There are numerous delicious examples of Falanghina available in the USA including that of Feudi Di San Gregorio, Cantina del Taburno, Mustilli, and Villa Matilde, among others.

Falanghina was said to be part of the blend of Falernian, a wine renowned in ancient Rome. Whatever the definitive history is of the grape, one thing is certain, it makes wonderful wines and many producers are working every year to improve on their grapes.

There are two different strains of Falanghina, Falanghina Beneventana and Falanghina flegrea.

Falanghina likes volcanic soils and enjoys the warm Mediterranean air and breeze that one finds in Campania. The Sannio is quite hilly and the wines can have nice acidity thanks to elevation.

It’s important to recognize the contribution of the Mustilli family to the growth of Falanghina. In 1979, Leonardo Mustilli bottled the first single-variety Falanghina in Campania. Since that time the variety has exploded in the Sannio going from 75 hectares of vines to 1,100 hectares in 2015.

I wrote about Falanghina del Sannio in a post last year following Campania Stories. While I didn’t get to attend this year, I can still drink these great wines whenever possible.

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