Molise is a tiny region with just 28 kilometers of seaside and very limited tourism. Wine has been made here since pre-Roman times, and was commented upon by Pliny the Elder. Today the area has about 49,000 acres under vine, grown on the long, low hills that stretch 25 miles from the base of the mountains to the sea. The reds include Montepulciano (the grape, not to be confused with the town in Tuscany), and Aglianico. The whites include the widely planted Trebbiano, as well as Moscato, and the local Greco and Falanghina.
Most of the area’s wine is made by cooperative wineries, such as Cantina Cliternia co-op with 250 members and 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) under vine; and Cantina Val Biferno, with 450 members who farm 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of hillside vineyards and produce over a million bottles a year. These wines are surprisingly good. I particularly enjoyed Cantina Val Biferno’s Novello Terra Degli Osci, a simple but intoxicatingly fruity young red wine.
The region’s reputation, however, rests with a handful of private estate wineries. Chief among
them is Di Majo Norante, in Campomarino just south of Termoli, on a slightly sloping bench overlooking the coast. The property includes 60 hectares (150 acres) of vines, cultivated without the use of pesticides or herbacides. Alesio di Major Norante brought in consulting winemaker, Ricardo Cotarella, more than 10 years ago and the duo have been turning out the best wines of the region ever since. Particularly notable is Di Majo Norante’s Aglianico. These
|Alesio di Major Norante (standing) with his father|
wines, all estate grown and bottled, show depth and complexity, yet are notably elegant. “We don’t make wines to write about,” says Alesio; “we make wines to drink.” To that end the wines are affordable. All run between $8 and $16 in the U.S. At $44, Riserva Don Luigi is the exception. A blend of 90% Montepulciano and 10% Aglianico, Don Luigi is a classic wine, layered and subtle, with juicy cherry fruit and roasted hazelnut overtones, supple tannins, and tight structure.
Just a short drive upslope from Di Majo Norante, Borgo di Colloredo is a family winery founded in 1968, with 60 hectares (150 acres) under vine. Pasquale di Giulio cares for the vines, while his brother Enrico makes the wine. They produce reds from Aglianico and Montepulciano, whites from Trebbiano, Bombino bianco and Malvasia, and a rosé from Montepulciano. If export figures for this winery are an indication of the current state of Italian wine consumption, only 10% of the winery’s production is destined for Molise, another 20% for the rest of Italy, and fully 70% is exported.
Bobo Vicenzi of RIBO
After visiting the wineries, you can stay and eat at Ribo in the tiny town of Guglionese (site of the aforementioned Cantina Val Biferna). Ribo is named for Columbo “Bobo” Vicenzi and his wife Rita. Ribo is a combination of ristorante, enoteca(wine bar), and hotel. Chef Bobo is a famous communist (something of an anachronism these days), who has done quite well for himself as a capitalist. Perhaps this can only be understood in the context of Italy, but in any event Chef Bobo’s 80-seat restaurant serves wonderful local food, from Marina Colonna’s varietal olive oils and sheep cheese, to buffalo mozzarella, fresh baked bread, and the produce of the sea. He also makes and ages his own salami in the wine cellar beneath the restaurant.
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT IN MOLISE
RIBO Ristorante, Enoteca, Hotel
contrada Malecoste 7
Tel: 39 875-680655
Closed: Monday and November
WINERIES TO VISIT IN MOLISE
Di Majo Norante
86042 Campomarino (CB)
Tel: 39 875-57208
Fax: 39 875-57379
Cantina Borgo di Colloredo:
Contrada Zezza, 8/B
86042 Campomarino (CB)
Tel and Fax: 39 0875-57453
86034 Guglionesi (CB)
Tel: 39 0875-59550
Fax: 39 0875-59402
Open Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM TO 6:00 PM.
Nuova Cliternia, 70
86040 Campomarino (CB)
Tel: 39 875-57106
Fax: 39 875-57416