Molise is one of Italy’s smallest regions and was, until 1963, part of its northern neighbor Abruzzo. The foods and wines of this region are rustic and tell the story of a people that have worked with their lands for thousands of years.
The region is sandwiched between the Apennine Mountains to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. These two features help create an ideal place for growing grapes but most of the land is dedicated to other forms of agriculture: wheat, goats, and fruit. A lack of land for vineyards makes Molise one of the smallest producers (in the bottom third in terms of production) of wine in Italy, making it very challenging to find the wines in the States.
Molise’s wine history is intertwined with Aburzzo to the north, Campania to the southwest and Puglia to the south. As is the case of the wines of those regions, the wines of Molise tend to be lush, rich, driven by the ripeness of the grapes. The reds of the region are primarily made from Montepulciano (the popular grape of Aburzzo) and Aglianico (made famous by Taurasi DOCG in Campania). Recently, there has been a renaissance for the local grape Tintilla del Molise. All of these wines have a rich and hearty character making them perfect pairings for the rustic and earthy fare of the region. The Trebbiano grape dominates the white wines of the region although you will find more famous grapes as well; such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio grown but in much smaller quantities.
Today there are four D.O.C’s for Molise with one being the over arching Molise, which is a catchall for most any wine you can think of from a light Pinot Grigio to a sparkling wine. The other three are more regional and grape specific. Biferno, the most famous of the DOC’s, can be white, pink or red. If it is white it will be primarily from Trebbiano and if it is pink (rosato) or red it will be a blend of Montepulciano and Aglianico. Tintilia del Molise is the newest DOC and is only for red or pink wine from 95% Tintilia. This is the most intriguing wine of the region right now and we believe may hold the key to some very unique wines in the future. The final DOC is the Pentro di Isernia, which covers the rugged mountain region of western Molise. This DOC can produce white, pink and reds from the same cast of characters as the other regions: Trebbiano for whites, Montepulciano and Tintilia for reds.
Though these wines may sound really delicious, they are very difficult to find in the United States. The producer that we carry when it is available is the venerable DiMajo Norante. The estate produces a wide selection of wines including the hard to find Tintilia, which is worth the hunt (ONLY 8,000 bottles are produced!!!!).