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Salve, wine-lovers! After visiting islands of Sardegna and Sicily and then traveling on the mainland through Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia and Campania, are you ready to learn more about yet another southern Italian region? Although lesser known, the region of Molise will not seize disappoint, despite being the second-smallest region in Italy as well as one of the poorest. Come along then and let us explore…

Perhaps the most obscure wine making region in all of Italy, Molise wasn’t even a region until the last half of the 20th century. Formerly part of the region of “Abruzzi e Molise” (with what is now Abruzzo), since 1963 the region has become a separate entity. In fact, the food and traditions of the Molise to this day are still very closely associated with Abruzzo. However, its proximity to both Puglia and Campania lend the region of Molise a distinct southern influence, creating a delightful blend of cultures and traditions.

Only recently have commercial, industrial and tourist industry infrastructures begun to built in the sparse mountain areas of Molise, providing an alternate source of income from the region’s agricultural production. Because of its fatigued economy, this region was—especially during later half of the 20th century—the place of origin of many Italian immigrants flocking to the United States, Canada, Australia and northern Europe (Germany, Belgium, France, etc.). However Molise has recently began to experience a renaissance as tourists—hungry to escape the touristic areas of the north—have started to discover this charming and authentic region. In fact, northern Europeans have even begun to actively purchase property in the Molise, taking advantage of the pristine countryside, enchanting cities and low cost of living.

Molisani wines conquered their own independence in the 1980’s with the creation of two DOC origin designation: Biferno (named after the largest river in Molise) made around Campobasso, and Pentro di Isernia. Molise DOC soon followed, and this wine comes in red and white varietals and is made almost throughout the entire the region. These beautiful hillside areas receive wonderful sunshine and are nestled between the Apennines Mountains and the Adriatic Sea — perfect winemaking conditions.

Biferno wines can be red, white or rosé. The white wines are predominantly made from the Trebbiano grape along with the Bombino grape in smaller proportions. The reds are a blend of mostly Montepulciano with some of the Aglianico grape. Wines from Pentro di Isernia can also be red, white or rosé. The white wines are the same Trebbiano-Bombino grape blend, while the reds (and rosés) are usually a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese.

Although very closely associated with Abruzzo, its proximity to both Puglia and Campania lend the region of Molise a distinct southern influence, creating a delightful blend of cultures and traditions.

Although the Biferno DOC put molisani wines on the map, it is the boutique Tintilia grape that is perhaps the most “molisano” of the regions wines. Found exclusively in the Molise, Tintilia is colorful with an intense nose and full-bodied flavor. Although not favored by exporters and mass-producers, oenophiles visiting this region are sure to fall in love with this wine – finding it as the wine of choice for most local restaurants and homes in the area.

Molise seems to have all the natural prerequisites for making great wines, thus the oenological future seems bright for the region. The undeniable aptitude for vines on the sunny hillsides between the Apennines and the Adriatic indicates that with a little more effort Molise’s wine producers could match on a small scale the quality of their more well-known neighbors in Abruzzo, Puglia or Campania. New wineries will undoubtedly explore the hillsides closer to the mountains. We all look forward to new producers arriving on the scene from yet untried terroir to untried terroir.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Wednesday Wines, as we delve into the vineyards and mighty oak barrels of the wines of Abruzzo.

Salute!

Would you like see the stunning untouched beauty of the provinces of Isernia and Campobasso, walking in your ancestors footsteps and even meeting your long-lost Molisani relatives still living there? Contact us today and find out how italyMONDO! can help you research your Italian (and Molisano!) family tree or create a vacation of a lifetime with a custom Heritage Tour for you and your family!

Photo Courtesy of “francesco sgroi” at Flickr