Falanghina and Vermentino

A bottle of Falanghina and a bottle of Vermentino on a butcher block in Boulder, Colorado

I bought a few pounds of swordfish for the small dinner party. Annie made a dish with artichoke hearts and potatoes from a favorite cookbook, My Calabria. We prepared a variety of Italian nibbles (like fire-roasted olives with lemon zest and pepper flakes, inspired from a dish at Babette’s Pizza & Pane). And I understood two things going into Hazel’s: I wanted something Italian and white with body, and something Italian and white with snap.

I walked away with a Falanghina from Campania (the body) and a Vermentino from Tuscany (hello, snap). Each of them cost about $20. Both grapes rarely get grown outside of their respective zones in Italy: mostly Campania for Falanghina, and Sardinia, Liguria and Tuscany for Vermentino.

A bottle of Bellus Wines Falanghina from Campania on a table.
Italy is the land of wines meant for food, including this savory-yet-sharp Falanghina from Campania.

We first sipped the Falanghina from Bellus Wines, founded by Denver native and wine savant Jordan Salcito. The wine, called Caldera (a reference to the volcanic soil surrounding Mt. Vesuvius, where the Falanghina is grown), offered plenty of snap. But it was the body, whispers of almonds and burnt orange and a hint of saline, that helped the bottle disappear in minutes. It sang with the pork rillette from Denver’s Il Porcelino Salumi.

In addition to the enchanting flavors and aromas, I appreciate that farmers rejected pesticides and chemicals in the vineyard, and that a portion of the wine’s proceeds head to Earth Justice. Nice work, Jordan!

We drank plenty of Falanghina in Naples and Campania last summer, and I missed it; I hadn’t tasted the grape since our return to Colorado. Good to find this bottle in Boulder.

A bottle of Vermentino from Tuscany on a table in Boulder, Colorado

The Vermentino, from Fattoria di Magliano and grown in Tuscany, was not exactly what I anticipated — which was a bonus. I imagined more citrus; really more snappy snap. It delivered lemon peel snap, but also mediterranean herbs, pear, white flowers, mint. Given the mint in the swordfish marinade, this bottle complemented the food with finesse. We dispatched it with great haste.

One of the dinner party guests texted the next morning, asking for the names of the evening’s varietals. We enjoyed a few other wines that night, but the Italian whites especially beguiled us all. It’s always a bonus when a dinner party begets a new fan of Italian wine, especially wines made from relatively oddball varietals like Falanghina and Vermentino.

The night included limoncello that we picked up in a tiny shop in Naples last summer, thanks to our Elena Ferrante-obsessed guide who clapped and exclaimed when I told her I too found Ferrante’s books irresistible and enchanting. “Ah! A man who likes Elena Ferrante!” She sidled close for the rest of the tour.