If you say any of these names to an Italian wine fan, they will be able to instantly tell you that these are three of Italy’s most famous wine regions. Every single one is known for producing spectacular wines that are sold all over the world.
This is a given.
But what if we were to say the word “Molise”?
We’ll give you a few moments to search your memory for any mention of this phrase. The odds are that you won’t be able to find it because Molise is a word that so few people say.
And yet, Molise is a wine region, just as the three we mentioned at the top of the article. In fact, as a recognised wine region, Molise should have the same status and recognition as the likes of Tuscany or Piedmont.
But it doesn’t.
Instead, Molise has become somewhat infamous in recent years, being labelled by some as the wine region that “doesn’t exist”.
In this article, we’re going to take a trip into the unknown by exploring this mysterious region before examining some of the wines that emerged from it.
The Mystery of Molise
Based on Southern Italy, Molise spent most of its existence as a part of the Abruzzo region. It was only in 1970 that Molise split away from its previous parent region, becoming a region in its own right.
And with that, we see the first reason why Molise is such a mysterious place.
For the vast majority of Italy’s existence, Molise simply hasn’t existed as a wine region. That isn’t the say that Molise did not exist. It’s just that prior to 1970, it was part of a much larger and well-known region.
Then, we turn our focus to the region’s population.
Housing just over 300,000 people, Molise is smaller than many of Italy’s major cities when it comes to population density. And again, this has given rise to what is now a popular joke in Italy that Molise does not exist.
And a joke is exactly what it is.
Molise’s status is such that it has actually become a meme in Italian culture. We even saw a Twitter hashtag (#ilmolisenonesiste), which resulted in the creation of all sorts of amusing comments. The joke is so widespread that it is even the subject of the book Il Molise Non Esiste (Molise Doesn’t Exist), which was written by Italian journalist Enzo Luongo.
But Molise Does Exist
Interestingly, the emergence of this joke about Molise has led to the exact opposite effect that Molise once had on the Italian population.
In an article published by the BBC, a Molise resident named Maria Laura Pace had this to say:
“Ten years ago, when I would tell other Italians that I was from Molise, they would give me a blank expression. They literally had never heard of us. Now when I mention Molise to them, they laugh and say Molise doesn’t exist. In a way, that’s progress.”
And in a way, she’s right.
As little as a decade ago, Molise was such a nondescript region that many Italians truly didn’t know that it existed. Today, thanks to the jokes about Molise not existing, the vast majority of Italians know that it does exist.
It’s an interesting outcome.
A joke that was created to mock a region’s small stature has instead elevated Molise to the point where it is one of the most well-known regions in Italy, at least amongst native Italians.
The Wines of Molise
So, Molise definitely does exist.
It may be small and it may be the single most underappreciated region in all of Italy. But it exists and it has been classified as a region for a simple reason.
All joking aside, Molise is capable of producing wines that are more than capable of standing side-by-side with their contemporaries. So, if you ever manage to find the mysterious and “non-existent” region, these are the wines you should seek out.
Named after the river Biferno, this wine has existed in some fashion since the Middle Ages, making it one of Italy’s more historic wines.
Made using the Montepulciano grape, this gorgeous wine is known for maturing gracefully, offering up a gorgeous collection of notes as it does. Any fans of Montepulciano will rightfully expect the notes of black cherry and plums. But in Biferno, we have a wine that also exhibits spicier notes, in addition to subtle hints of liquorice.
A gorgeous Italian table wine, Biferno’s low price does not indicate its high quality in any way. Of the two wines that Molise produces under the guidance of the DOC, this is the one that you’re most likely to find.
From a wine that is fairly readily available, we move to a wine that only adds to the mystery of Molise.
We barely ever see any wines carrying the Pentro DOC label reach the market. This has led many to speculate that the DOC is now defunct, with no producers creating wines that fit into it. Others speculate that there are a small number of producers who still create Pentro wines. However, they do so in extremely low volumes, with the wines they produce never leaving Molise.
Whatever the case may be, if you do happen to spot a Pentro you should snap it up immediately. The wine combines the Trebbiano Toscano, Montepulciano, and Sangiovese grapes to amazing effect.
Plus, it is perhaps fitting that the best wine to represent a region that “doesn’t exist” is a wine that some believe has been lost to the ages.
The Final Word
Molise is one of the most interesting Italian wine regions for the simple fact that it is so small, new, and relatively unknown.
However, these factors do not play into the quality of the wines that the region produces.
If you are lucky enough to find a wine from Molise, buy it and treasure it. That wine may just provide you with an unexpectedly pleasurable Italian red wine experience.
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