The extinct Roccamonfina volcano contributed volcanic soils to Villa Matilde and the other Falerno del Massico regions vineyards.
In the time of the Roman Empire the Falernum wines from the Caserta region just north of Naples were the most prized of all wines. Aged for 100 years or more, drank by the most wealthy members of society and favoured by Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius and other Roman emperors, the Falernum (or Falernian) wines were symbolic of the height of civilization. Even after the fall of the empire the wines from this region were prized. Then the phylloxera devastation came to southern Italy and, by the turn of the century, the vineyards were all but completely lost.
In the 1950’s a small group of agricultural scientists from the University of Naples and one very passionate lawyer went in search of the lost vines of Falernum. Francesco Paolo Avallone was that lawyer. A lifelong student of the Roman Empire and a professor of Roman Law at the University of Naples, he and his crop scientist friends conducted an “ampelographical” study of the vines in all the small farms in the Caserta region. For more than 10 years they searched and in the end the friends discovered 20 vines – 15 red (Aglianico and Piedirosso) and 5 white (Falanghina) – of the specific strains that had originally been cultivated in ancient times. With this small but precious start, Sr. Avallone embarked on a journey to create a modern expression of the greatest wine of ancient Rome, the Falerno del Massico. Today the Falerno del Massico DOC is again producing wines of distinction. Paolo Avallone’s legacy is the Villa Matilde estate winery. The Avallone family, now led by Francesco Paolo’s son and daughter, Salvatore and Maria Ida, use modern winemaking to evoke the original character of Rome’s greatest wine.
Why Falerno del Massico For Wine?
Aglianico is one of the original Falernum grapes
Aside from the historical imperative of drinking these wines, the fact that some of the greatest grapes of Italy find their home here tells you that the wines are spectacular. Aglianico and Piedirosso are the permitted wines for the DOC red and must be within the ranges of 60-80% and 20-40% respectively. Agilianico, one of the greatest of all the world’s red wine grapes, finds a slightly more approachable and warm style in this part of Campania. For the DOC white, the joyously delicious Falanghina grape must make up at least 85% of the blend. Falanghina’s name comes from the word Falerno and these whites can be very age-worthy. There are non-DOC wines as well and single varietal Piedirosso makes a wine with very pronounced red/black fruit character and with complex aromas and flavours. Primitivo is also very common in the region.
Listen to the podcast interview with Salvatore Avallone of Villa Matilde on The Wine Beat
Where Is Falerno del Massico?
Falerno del Massico is in the Caserta province of Campania – just northwest of Napoli
Located in a large amphitheatre-shaped valley below the foot of the extinct volcano Roccamonfina and a series of other mountains including Monte Massico and Monti Aurunci. The region is on the northern outskirts of the city of Naples and the beaches here are a getaway for the Neapolitans. The location creates a microclimate that is slightly cooler than other parts of Campania in the summer due to cool winds from the mountains but still relatively warm in the winter. The soils are quite distinct with the ancient volcanic ash from Roccamonfina as well as calcareous soil from the time this area was an ancient sea bed.
For wine tours in Campania you can contact the following exceptional operators:
The Grand Wine Tour conducts tours in many of Italy’s greatest wine regions
Wine Lovers Tours are highly regarded Italian wine tourism specialists
Cellar Tours provides private high-quality wine tours in many regions including Southern Italy
Who Are The Winemakers?
In the relatively short time since the Falerno vines have been recovered, a number of winemakers have been following in the Villa Matilde’s footsteps. Here are links to a few:
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
Whenever you are in Naples or wine touring in Campania is a good time to visit. The winter months of January and February are chilly but this is southern Italy, the food, wine and hospitality are always great.
Map and photo credits: www.agricoltura.regione.campania.it and Villa Matilde