From Roads To Roots: Tintilia and the Wines of Molise

Why You’ll Love TerreSacre

The Italian Region of Molise 

Many people call Molise “the unknown region.” Some call it “the forgotten region.” And some don’t know Molise is one of Italy’s 20 regions. 

But for me, it’s the region of my father and family. I’ve spent more time in Molise than any other place in Italy. I lost count but at least 15 summers in my father’s village called Montaquila. 

It’s one of the poorest, most underdeveloped regions in all of Italy. But it’s rich in so many other ways. 

Molise is the home of one of the oldest human settlements dated back 700,000 years ago. There would only be one reason to settle there: the riches and resources of the land. 

When it comes to Italian culture, it’s one of the most authentic places to experience. Because of the lack of industrialization, Molise remains focused on agriculture and its scenic views of pastures, lakes, and mountains remain untouched. 

The local cuisines remains rustic, rich, with fresh Mediterranean ingredients. The tomatoes and the sauce that comes from them, will make you cry when you leave this place.

Once you taste the cheese in Molise, you’ll quickly realize you need it every day. The caciocavallo is the best in all of Italy. 

And the bread, oh the bread! The big round loafs baked in wood-fired ovens are the best you’ll ever taste in Italy. I could literally just eat their bread and be satisfied. The hard crust outside, with the dense and softness of the inside with those little holes. 

Pour some olive oil (from Molise of course) on that bread, you’ll be so overwhelmed with joy that you’ll start looking to buy yourself a house here. 

And I’m about to say something controversial. 

The Mozzarella di Bufala, which is credited to the Campania region and considered the finest Mozzarella in the world, is better in Molise. 

So if you want to experience authentic Italian cuisine, the rustic countryside of Molise delivers.

Geography of Molise

Nestled into the crossroads of Southern Italy, Molise shares it’s borders with 4 neighboring regions: Abruzzo, Lazio, Campania, and Puglia. 

And by sharing those borders, it’s natural that you’ll find that Molise shares some of the beautiful things that make each region unique. 

Molise also rests on the Adriatic Sea coastline. If you like beaches and fresh seafood (there’s that mention of food again), laying down on white beach sand and gazing at soft Adriatic waters makes it a great place for Italian relaxation. 

Molise is also a mountainous region. If you like mountain hiking, or you like to see breathtaking views from high elevations, Molise is the place to be. The town of Capracotta is 4,662 feet above sea level and besides the breathtaking views, they make some of the best pecorino cheese in the country.

History of Molise

If you like history, Molise is a treasure chest. From the “Osci” to the Samnites, the Romans, the Longobards, the Aragons, the French, the allies and enemies of World War II, Molise has been conquered over and over again. From Castles to roman amphitheaters, Molise will show you the historic road to civilization. 

The most notable war was between the Romans and Samnites which lasted decades. Why did the Romans want to conquer the Samnites?  

They wanted control of the riches and resources of the land. 

The same reason the hominids inhabited Molise 700,000 years ago. 

And let’s not forget the symbol of a civilized society: wine. 

Molise Wine

So here’s another paradox. 

Many people say Molise is not known for wine. 

Tell that to the local people in Molise! 

It’s true that tracing the roots of Molise wine is a challenge. Not to mention the region is the second smallest in Italy. And that the region was devastated by Roman conquest and again after World War II. 

Put simply, the wine world doesn’t know Molise exists. 

So during my summers in Molise, I drank a lot of wine. 

The first time I had a Falanghina (a white grape more known from neighboring Campania) was in Molise. The first time I had Pecorino (the white wine well known in Abruzzo, but also grown in Lazio and Marche), it was made in Molise. 

Other white grapes like Trebbiano (super famous in neighboring Abruzzo), Malvasia (grown all over Italy) are also made in Molise. 

Red grapes like Montepulciano (more famous in Abruzzo), Sangiovese (more famous in Tuscany) and Aglianico (more famous in Campania) are also made in Molise. And they’re great! Sometimes they’re blended together. And that’s great too!

But one native red grape that none of those regions have is Tintilia. 

Tintilia Wine of Molise

Tintilia is the principal, native red grape of Molise. 

Its origins are debatable. Some say the Spaniards brought it to Molise. There are records in the 1800’s referring to Tintilia as a Spanish grape. But remember, the Spaniards were one of Molise’s conquerors. 

Some thought it was related to Bovale from Sardinia. But with genetic analysis we now know that Tintilia is very different from Bovale and very different from the Tintilia grapes in Spain. 

Interestingly, a Tintilia wine won a gold medal at a Paris wine show in 1900. 

The berry itself is much smaller than other wine grapes. If you look at the wild grapes in Sardinia for example, (one of the largest areas to study wild grapevines in the world) you’ll see that wild grape berries are much smaller than domesticated grape varieties. Could Tintilia be traced back to the wild vine? 

I think the story of Tintilia isn’t finished. We have just little pieces. But with research and time, I think the story will reveal itself. 

Tintilia produces medium to full bodied wines, with inky pigments, and flavors of forest berry notes, vanilla, tar, mediterranean herbs and minerality. Tintilia is capable of being aromatic with silky smooth textures, and an excellent structure. The wine can also produce huge wines with wide shoulders and big tannins. 

The wines have high acidity levels so they’re very lively and mesh well with classic Italian cuisine. The high acid and tannin content allow Tintilia to age midterm. We don’t quite know yet how long the wine can age. All of these characteristics can be tamed or magnified depending on the terroir and/or winemaker. 

In short Tintilia has a wide array of expressions even for a small area such as the Eastern part of Molise. 

So far, it seems that Tintilia is finding more complex and refined expressions at higher elevations. Somewhere between 200 and 400 meters above sea level. Since Molise is not suffering from a lack of mountains, Tintilia up high seems to be the place to cultivate this grape. 

TerreSacre Winery in Molise

I’ve been following Tintilia and tasting its wines for many many years. The wine has come a long way over the past 10 years. As the producers learn more from every vintage of this almost extinct grape, the wines are becoming more complex, more elegant and more refined. 

And while I’ve been tasting the wines from most producers every year, and studying their progress, there was one winery whose Tintilia I didn’t yet have the opportunity to taste. 

I was introduced to the TerreSacre Estate vineyards by Marcello Russodivito, a Molisano chef who owned and operated an Italian restaurant in New York for decades. 

What caught my attention about this estate was that they had a well-rounded portfolio of different native wines, all of which were very good. It’s quite common for a winery to have one good one, it’s a much rarer thing to find a winery with a portfolio of excellent wines. 

TerreSacre is located in Montenero di Bisaccia, a mountain village that sits almost 900 feet above sea level. The mountain vineyards overlook the crystal blue Adriatic Sea which is a magnificent view to see. 

It’s this merging of mountain and sea climates where the magic happens at the TerreSacre vineyards. 

The hot days and cool nights while breathing the salty breeze of the Adriatic Sea are secret ingredients to their terroir-driven wine grapes. 

In the vineyards you’ll find native Italian white grape varieties like Trebbiano and Falanghina and red varieties like Montepulciano and Tintilia. 

The grapes are hand harvested and hand selected by trained personnel to ensure the highest quality materials are used to make their wines. 

The winemaking process is non-invasive with minimal intervention. After all the hard work and respect in the vineyard, the same philosophy must continue in the cellar. 

The perfumes and flavors in the wines are ripe, lush, just like mediterranean fruits that grow in the region. 

Like many great wines, giving them time to open and breath will greatly reward your tasting experience. 

The TerreSacre Estate also has a large olive tree farm and makes outstanding olive oil. So come for a visit. You can rent a room at their bed and breakfast, and have lunch or dinner at their restaurant while sipping on Tintilia, and enjoy the rustic scenery. 

The estate’s mantra is in latin: “Experientia Manet.” (The Experience Remains)

From the mountain roads to the roots of Tintilia, the Molise culture is hardcore Italy; attached to its roots and way of life because it works in its own special way. 

Oh how I dream of the tomatoes, the cheese, the Tintilia and celebrating life with friends and family in Molise.

From roads to roots, the experience remains…

TerreSacre wines we carry


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