There’s an area on the coast of Italy between Rome and Naples that was once known as Ager Falernus. It is renowned for its olive oil, vegetables and top-notch wine and is steeped in history stretching back more than two millennia. This is where Falerno del Massico wine is now produced.
It was curiosity about the past that prompted Francesco Paolo Avallone to enter winemaking. In the 1960s, he was a lawyer and passionate about the historical tales of wines that were described by poets such as Virgil, Martial and Horace.
Such was Avallone’s passion for that era that he decided to revive the winemaking processes that had prevailed more than 2,000 years earlier and bring back Falerno. The result was Villa Matilde, which sits on the slopes of Mount Roccamonfina – an extinct volcano – around an hour's drive north of Naples and 10 kilometres inland.
That was back in the 1970s and was the first step towards creating a business that now comprises three properties – Tenuta di San Castrese e Parco Nuovo, Rocca dei Leoni and Tenuta di Altavilla – and is run by Avallone’s son Salvatore and daughter Maria-Ida (pictured).
The local soil is volcanic and sandy. There are limited amounts of water and this means the vines have their roots deep below the surface, allowing them to absorb minerals. The estate totals 140 hectares, shared between vines and olive groves, and benefits from a cooling sea breeze that tempers the warmth of the midday sunshine and protects the freshness and acidity of the grapes. Falerno uses Falanghina and Greco di Tufo grapes in white wine or Primitivo, Aglianico and Piedirosso for the reds.
We like three of the wines produced by Villa Matilde, two of them being whites. The first of these is made from 100% Greco di Tufo. This offers a bold flavour of peach and apricot followed by citrus and an almond sweetness at the end.
We’re also keen on the Falanghina, which has rich flavours of tropical and stone fruit, combined with subtle floral and herbal notes. This is a medium-bodied wine, with refreshing acidity and a finish that offers hints of bitter almonds.
In addition, we have chosen one red from Villa Matilde. Harking back to the area’s historical varieties, it is made from 100% Aglianico grapes. This is full bodied yet well rounded with velvety tannins and rich flavours of wild blackberries and red berries, with a fresh finish.
Italian wines have deep-rooted traditions. We believe that Villa Matilde is offering a classic choice for anyone who shares the ambitions of Francesco Paolo Avallone and wants to sample a taste of history with a splash of modern style.