Falerno del Massico DOC is part of the Campania region, situated in southern Italy. It is inextricably linked to the greatest wine of Roman times, the seductive and ancient Falerno (also known as Falernum). One legend tells of how Bacchus, Roman god of wine, turned the slopes of Mount Massico into vineyards because of the kindness that Falernus, an old farmer, bestowed on the scruffy-looking mortal version of Bacchus. From that day on, Falerno was praised by classical Roman poets and was the drink of the ancient armies of Rome.
In days gone by, its alcoholic strength was so immense that it was often diluted – although due to its high quality, connoisseurs would leave it in its natural form. According to the philosopher Pliny the Elder, if a good-quality Falerno was held near a naked flame it would catch fire. Most of the ancient wines were predominantly white, produced from Aminea Gemina, now known as Greco. Today the modern versions can be both bianco (white, usually the fragrant and prestigious Falangina) and rosso (red, predominantly made from Aglianico and Piedirosso with the occasional addition of Primitivo and Barbera). Piedirosso, locally known as Per’e Palummo or Palombina, takes its name from the gnarled red bases of the vines, conjuring up an image of the red feet of a native dove. There is also a Falerno del Massico Primitivo which must be made from 85% of this varietal.
The vineyards are found in the hilly territory of the communes of Sessa Aufrunca, Cellole, Mondragone, Falciano del Massico and Carinola, in the province of Caserta. The vines enjoy an excellent level of exposure, enriched by the well-drained, tufa-rich volcanic soils on which they thrive. Their close proximity to the sea, while enjoying a hillside elevation, means the grapes are kept healthy by the cool air currents and can mature perfectly.
Over the centuries this wine has been through various stages of decline, but has never lost its legendary status. However, producers recognized an improvement in quality was needed, and the wine was finally granted its DOC classification in 1989. It remains one of Campania’s shining stars.