#Giro2021 Stage 8: Starting in Puglia, Ending in Campania with Donnachiara Falanghina Beneventano

If you haven’t heard, Stage 6 brought the maglia rosa to Attila Valter of Team Groupama FDJ – the first Hungarian rider to lead a grand tour. It was a banner day for Valter, who exchanged the white jersey (best rider under 25) for that of the overall leader.

In other news, filed under weird and unexpected, Deceuninck rider Pieter Serry was “bumped” off his machine by an inattentive driver in the Team Bike Exchange car. Glad he wasn’t seriously injured. But, come on, how the heck does that happen? I believe the offending operator has been dismissed from the race which, in my opinion, is a small price to pay for a lapse that could have resulted in a hospital visit.

Stage 7 was a mostly flat run down the Adriatic coast of Abruzzo. Gabe, whose family hails from the region waxed poetic about moving there and living a simple life by the sea. I joined him for a bit, imagining myself sipping a crisp Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo as I perused the medieval architecture. Ah, how sweet that would be!

Full-bodied rosato is always on my summer list! Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is one of my favorites.

Friday’s race ended in Termoli, with a nasty uphill sprint to the finish. Caleb Ewan proved the strongest man in the bunch, easily outpacing his rivals for the win. Coupled with his victory in Stage 5, he now has accumulated more points than any other rider, giving him the maglia ciclamino (named for the cyclamen plant and its bright purple flowers) worn by the Giro’s top sprinter.

Which brings us to Saturday’s race.

Today the peloton changes direction, halting its southward momentum and turning first to the west, then up toward the north. Stage 8 begins in Foggia in northern Puglia, courses west through Campobasso in Molise, then tracks south to Campania. It’s as far south as the race will venture this year; for the next two weeks we edge ever closer to the Alps where the climbers will battle it out on tiny roads (with perhaps a dusting of snow.)

Stage 8 Profile Map (www.giroditalia.it.en)

As you can see from the profile map, the day will be a challenge for GC riders, who must keep pace with the climbers. While not among the most difficult routes, it may put pressure on those riders who got a late start in training this season. Ineos Grenadiers have been riding strong in their support of Egan Bernal (16 seconds behind), and I expect that to continue. Valter and his team will face attacks on his pink jersey all day – are they up to the task? Only 49 seconds separate the top ten contenders. Should be fun to watch!

What to Sip at the Finish Line: Beneventano Falanghina from Donnachiara

Donnachiara is a woman-owned winery situated in Irpinia, east of Naples. Irpinia occupies the Apennine foothills around the town of Avellino and is named for the ancient Hirpini tribe which used to live here; both names reference the local species of wolf (hirpus) that once roamed and hunted in the forests.

Vines are grown at elevation and benefit from the climate, which is more continental (cold winters, hot summers, large diurnal temperature shifts) than in the coastal areas. Soils are a mix of chalk and clay layered over a few centuries’ worth of ash from once-active volcanoes. Each of these factors adds complexity to the wines made here – in Donnachiara’s case, from native grape varieties like Fiano, Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, and Aglianico. For such a southerly region, the wines are remarkably fresh and acidic, keeping them lively on the palate and increasing their ability to age gracefully.

Donnachiara Line-Up

I’ve had the chance to taste these wines with Ilaria Petitto, owner of Donnachiara, on a couple of occasions. Their portfolio includes everything from a sparkling Falanghina to reserve-level Aglianico; all are well-made and quite agreeable with food.

For Saturday’s stage, I’ve chosen to feature the Falanghina. It’s another white grape that deserves more attention than it gets, so here goes . . .

Falanghina: the Workhorse Grape of Campania Comes into Its Own

As the most-grown white variety in the region, Falanghina shows up in many high-volume bottlings, most of which show medium-intensity apple and citrus flavors with a hint of herbaceousness. Most have no oak influence. Grapes grown at altitude benefit from cooling breezes, which provide a respite from the warm Mediterranean climate. As with the Verdicchio I wrote about earlier this week, Falanghina is a great change of pace, if you’re looking for a new summer white wine.

Better-quality wines, like those from Donnachiara, amp up the complexity a bit, offering ripe stone fruit (peach, nectarine) and tropical fruit (mango, pineapple) as a contrast to the medium+ acidity. The wines are vinified in stainless steel, and there is no exposure to oak. Malolactic conversion is blocked to keep acidity high. There is a little weight on the palate, thanks to moderately high alcohol and all that fruit, but overall the sensation is one of balance.

Testifying to the resilience of the grapes and the people who grow them, this Falanghina is complex and food-friendly.

Donnachiara Beneventano Falanghina IGT “Resilienza” (about $24 retail)

100% Falanghina, this wine is made from grapes manually harvested from higher-elevation sites during the early morning hours to preserve aromas and acidity. Grapes undergo cryomaceration (42-46 degrees F) and are fermented in stainless steel. No malolactic fermentation or oak aging, but it did spend some time on the lees.

It is deeper in color than I expected, more gold than lemon. There’s a little funk on the nose, maybe a little yeasty note; then there is beeswax, ripe golden apple and acacia flowers; white peach and lemon. On the palate it is a balanced mix of earthy and fruity flavors, with medium+ acidity; the fruit a lovely balance of tart and sweet. This was an absolutely beautiful wine. Pair it with a no-holds-barred charcuterie platter: ham and cheese, please. Or, if you’re inviting friends for dinner, fresh grilled fish with an herb-citrus vinaigrette would do nicely.

Add whatever you fancy: olives, almonds, pickles. It’ll be great with a glass of Falanghina.

Enjoy the first leg of our northward journey. I’ll be back with ideas for what to sip on Sunday.

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