Regional capital: Campobasso
Provinces: Campobasso, Isernia
Molise (pronounced moˈli(ː)ze) is a region of Southern Italy, the second smallest of the regions. It was formerly (until 1963) part of the region of Abruzzi e Molise (with Abruzzo) and now a separate entity. The region covers 4,438 km² and has a population of about 300,000.
Climate and Geography
Molise borders Abruzzo to the north-west, Lazio to the west, Campania to the south, Puglia to the south-east and the Adriatic Sea to the north-east. With an area of 4 438 km2, Molise is the smallest region in Southern Italy, and the youngest region in the country as a whole.
Molise is a typically inland and mountainous region, despite its 35 km of coast on the Adriatic. About 55% of the region is composed of mountains and the remaining 45% of uplands (interior and coastal uplands). The absence of lowlands and the predominance of mountainous areas constitute a natural barrier to the social and economic development of the region. Climate is directly influenced by topography: there is a maritime climate in the narrow coastal strip, a temperate one in the uplands and a continental climate in the more inland and mountainous areas.
Many of the towns in the interior have been almost abandoned as young people travel to the larger centres to find employment. There is a particularly rich cluster of communities in the Larino area. These are characteristic medieval hilltowns formed around a church, or - as in the case of Larino - a massive cathedral.
Molise has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Samnites, along with the Frentani, dominated this region until arrival of the Romans. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, Molise was conquered by the Ostrogoths in 535, and then, in 572, by the Lombards, being annexed to the Duchy of Benevento. In 860 Saracens destroyed Isernia, Telese, Alife, Sepino, Boiano and Venafro.
By the 10th century there were nine countdoms: Venafro, Larino, Trivento, Bojano, Isernia, Campomarino, Termoli, Sangro and Pietrabbondante. In 1095 the most powerful of them, Bojano, came under the rule of the Norman lord Hugo I of Molhouse, who most probably gave his name to the region.
The province enjoyed a resurgence towards the end of the 13th century, as part of the unified Kingdom of Naples. In the 16th century Molise was incorporated into the province of Capitanata (Apulia). In 1806 it became an autonomous province in the former Abruzzi region.
In the 19th century there was a general worsening of the economic conditions of the population, and this gave rise, after the newly established Kingdom of Italy (1861), to brigandage and a massive emigration, not only abroad but also to more industrialised areas of Italy.
Massive destruction occurred during World War II until the Allied forces were able to land at Termoli in September 1943. Huge Allied land forces were based in Campobasso, which was called "Maple Leaf City" by the Canadian troops.
Molise is the newest Italian region, since it was established in 1963, when the region Abruzzi e Molise was split in two. It became effective only in 1970.
This overlooked region, which was long an appendix of the Abruzzi, gained official status in wine in the 1980s with the DOCs of Biferno and Pentro. The undeniable aptitude for vines on the sunny hillsides between the Apennines and the Adriatic, indictes that Molise's wines could match those of neighbouring Abruzzi, Apulia or Campania with time, though the evidence in bottle is scarce so far. The soil in the region's hills and the mild Adriatic climate seem to provide a favourable combination. The estates of Masseria Di Majo Norante with DOC of Biferno and the table wines of Ramitello are setting examples for others to follow as Molise strives for a vinicultural identity of its own. Most other wine seems to be consumed locally, which explains why Molise has the smallest percentage of classified wines in its total.
- Pentro di Isernia or Pentro
- Osco or Terre degli Osci
The mountainous area of Molise is located in the southern part of Central Italy and is one of the smallest wine regions alongside Aosta Valley. Its neighbors include Abruzzo and Lazio to the north and Campania and Puglia to the south. It is considered a rather obscure region, because although wines have been made in Molise as far back as 500 B.C with influences coming from the Samnites, Etruscans and Romans, it only gained its independence as a wine region in the last half of the 20th Century. Rather overshadowed by its neighbor Abruzzo, of which it was politically a part of until 1963 (Abruzzi e Molise), it finally gained two of its own DOCs Biferno (its name derived from the largest river in the area) and Pentro di Isernia in the 1980s.
The DOC of Molise applies to a mix of native Italian and international varieties, creating new possibilities for producers who have been striving to establish an identity with wine beyond the region. The rolling hills and the mild Adriatic climate of Molise favor wines of class, though the evidence in bottle is not as widespread as it might be.
The IGT category of Osco or Terre degli Osci refers to the Oscan people who inhabited Molise in prehistoric times. The other IGT category is Rotae.
Grapes and wines
Biferno wines are produced in the province of Campobasso and offers reds, whites and roses. The white blends tend to comprise mainly Trebbiano Toscano supported by smaller portions of Bombino, whilst the reds lean towards Montepulciano combined with a little Aglianico and some Trebbiano Toscano. Pentro di Isernia similarly produces all three, although its red blend consists of a Montepulciano/Sangiovese mix. Biferno’s wines also differ slightly, displaying less acidity and more body, owing to its terroir; mountains giving way to high plains that slope down towards the sea.
Joining these two DOCs in 1998 is the newer Molise (del Molise) DOC which encompasses the whole region and unlike its counterparts, it also makes spumantes. Several grape varieties reign in this area including Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Falanghina, Montepulciano and the native Tintilia to name but a few.
Despite its small size; vineyards covering around 9,500 hectares (23 475) and wine production only around 400,000 hectoliters a year, of which only 2% is DOC, this region offers a diverse topography. Flourishing in hillside vineyards with excellent exposure and plentiful sunshine, most of the vine growing is found in the southern hills and valleys surrounded by the Matese and Mainarde ranges. The combination of morainic and calcareous soils, its location between the Apennines and Adriatic Sea and the varied climates (Maritime along the narrow coastal part, temperate in the upper valleys and continental further inland around the mountainous areas), provides a favorable terroir for the cultivation of vines.