I Love Italian Wine and Food – The Molise Region

vino_moliseIl mosto fiore – la svinatura – Photo © willer1973

An article by: Levi Reiss

If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Molise region of central Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.

Molise is a small region of central eastern Italy on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy, about 90% hills and mountains. Its total population is less than a third of a million people, which makes it the second least populous region of Italy after the Valle d’Aosta. Molise was associated with Abruzzo until 1963.

Agricultural products include livestock, pigs, sheep, and goats, wheat and a variety of vegetables including giant celery. The coast furnishes seafood and fish. Polenta (cornbread) is as popular as pasta.

Isernia is the largest city with a population somewhat less than ninety thousand. This area was first settled about 700,000 years ago (not a typographical error) and is of archeological interest. The regional capital, Campobasso, was the site of major battles during World War II. If you love old European cities consider visiting Larino, even if it is not mentioned in major tourist guides. (I’m not naming names.)

Molise devotes about nineteen thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 18th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about nine and a half million gallons, also giving it an 18th place. The region produces 3 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. Less than 4% of Molise wine carries the DOC designation. Molise is home to almost two dozen major and secondary grape varieties, about half white and half red.

Widely grown international white grape varieties include Chardonnay and Trebbiano (in particular the Italian Trebbiano Toscano subvariety). The best known Italian white variety is Falanghina, the main component in the wine reviewed below.

The best known strictly Italian red varieties are Montepulciano, Agliacano, and Tintilia.

Before reviewing the Molise wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Taccozze alla Crema a’Asparagi, Hand-Cut Pasta Squares in Asparagus Cream. Then move on to Zuppa di Pesce alla Termolese, Seafood Pot from Termoli, a resort on the Adriatic Sea. For dessert indulge yourself with Calcuini del Molise, Sweet Chestnut Fritters.

Wine Reviewed Rami Di Majo Norante Falanghina Del Molise 2005 12.5% alcohol about $11.50

I’ll start by quoting the marketing materials. “Made from the well-known Falanghina grape (with a little help from the ubiquitous Fiano variety), this delivers fresh peach and apricot flavors with a good citrus spine. It’s crisp and refreshing. And goes well with slightly spicy seafood or chicken, or makes an excellent sipping wine.”

I first tasted this wine with fried chicken cutlets, rice, and corn on the cob. I found it smooth with apricot but no peach flavors. It had more of a citrus smell than taste. I added a cayenne pepper sauce to the meat, and the wine rose to the challenge.

I then tried Talapia filets cooked in an onion sauce with a side of green beans in tomato sauce. I added too much cayenne pepper sauce, which was too harsh for the wine and for the fish itself. However, even with a deadened palate the wine was pleasant.

In the presence of a commercial chicken pot pie with a chili and lime hot sauce (but not too much) the wine was citrusy and refreshingly acidic. On the down side, the wine was short.

Kube, also known as kibbe, is a Middle-Eastern specialty of balls of ground rice filled with ground meat that cooks slowly. The wine was an excellent companion, its acidity cutting the grease nicely. The word gossamer came to mind.

Sometimes we have to make compromises. As you can guess from the name, Pecorino Toscano is not a cheese from the Molise region. It is a sheep’s milk cheese that has been made in Tuscany and neighboring Umbria for thousands of years. Soft Pecorino Toscano is white with a tinge of yellow, while semi-hard Pecorino Toscano is pale yellow. It is moderately strong smelling and has a complex nutty flavor. In the presence of this cheese, our was crisp and yet unctuous.

Final verdict. This wine is a winner. When making notes on this wine I mistakenly identified it as a DOC wine but I double-checked the label. It is not a DOC wine, but in my opinion is better than many DOC wines that I’ve tasted.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at ital@mail.theworldwidewine.com.

A few items from Abruzzo

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.

Grazing In Abruzzo
Bruce Franchini (Director), Lidia Bastianich (Actor)
Lidia loves the region of Abruzzo! She describes the people there as welcoming, giving and jovial, and the hearty food of the region has left her with such fond memories. In the Abruzzese kitchens, Farro, a kind of wheat berry, is cooked as a whole grain and is manufactured in many shapes-both by small artisanal pasta makers and larger pasta companies. She makes this pasta with arugula and ricotta. Following her main course of Lamb with Olives, she creates the deliciously fun Scrippelle-which look like fettuccine-and tosses them in a hot caramel, citrus and apricot sauce for dessert.

Abruzzo. History and art guide
by Latini M. L. (Author)
Although it is a bit too synthetic, to the detriment of the overall readability of the text, the work provides an exhaustive description of the artistic heritage of Abruzzo, inserting points for observation not always recognized. Recommended.

Abruzzo 1st Edition
by Michael Kenna
Abruzzo, located in southern Italy, is known as the green region of Europe because of the system of parks and nature reserves covering more than one-third of its territory. In Abruzzo, Michael Kenna found a cultural identity that elsewhere, for the most part, has been lost to globalization and instant communication. Kenna photographed medieval ruins, ancient villages and a countryside rich in traditional cultivation. As curator Vincenzo de Pompeis writes in the book s introduction, 'Abruzzo's heritage, together with its impressive natural scenery, brings to mind romantic connotations that have historically attracted many international landscape artists, particularly in the 19th century. Michael Kenna fits perfectly into this rich historical vein of celebrated landscape artists who have worked in Abruzzo. Kenna's work often evokes the influences of Romanticism. In his photographs of historic rural landscapes, for example, there is an air of melancholy, which accompanies memories from the past. His images of ruins stir up feelings of passing time, of the constantly evolving ties between history and nature.' This gorgeous new monograph by renowned landscape photographer Michael Kenna is published to coincide with a major museum exhibition in Loreto Aprutino, Italy. Richly printed in duotone on matt art paper, and presented in an olive-green cloth slipcase with black debossed text on one side and a tipped-in image on the other, Abruzzo presents 65 images from the series, published here for the first time.

Michelin Map Italy: Abruzzo, Molise 361 (Maps/Local (Michelin))
Michelin created its first travel guide over 100 years ago to promote road travel and inspire driving confidence. Today, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers travelers an extensive range of travel guides, maps and online travel resources. These products deliver the same Michelin promise of quality and consistency consumers expect from one of the world's most trusted brands.
Publisher of travel guides, maps and atlases, Michelin Travel & Lifestyle offers a complete travel portfolio. Where to go, how to get there, where to eat & stay, and what to see & do ... all in one collection with extensive international & domestic coverage, especially for Europe. Our series includes Michelin (Red) Guides, Green Guides, Must Sees and Michelin maps and atlases.

Canti Della Terra D'Abruzzo
Ettore Montanaro
Buy MP3: all 51 at the same time, or each one individually.

Italian Folk Songs from Abruzzo 1927-1930
LA COPPIA SCIASCIA (Artist)
CD and MP3 reissue of the freat italian folk duo. Comes with rich notes and photos of the couple as well. Pasquale and Clara Sciascia immigrated to the U. S. from the Abruzzo region of Italy, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1927 to 1933 they recorded 44 songs fro the Victor, Columbia and Brunswick record companies. The Sciascias were the first to record a number of Italian and Abruzzese folk songs, 14 of which are reissued here for the first time in 90 years. The songs feature wonderful duet singing and exquisite string band accompaniment. Also included are notes on the couple and their music, photos, and the transcribed and translated lyrics. Includes 20 page booklet.