An Unusual Italian Red Wine: Tintilia del Molise DOC

What a pleasant surprise! In October 2012 I was in Milan, Italy, and went to a restaurant with a friend. While I was browsing their wine list, a very peculiar wine caught my eye: they had a bottle of Tintilia in the cellar!

Now, unless you are REALLY into Italian wine, you will most likely be like, what the heck is Tintilia? Which is a fair question as it is one of the least known wines in the vast Italian repertoire, but it also gives me the opportunity to tell you something about it – so, if you are interested, read on!

Tintilia is the name of a red grape variety that is indigenous to the small region of Molise, in Southern Italy. Tintilia is often mistakenly believed to be the pseudonym in Molise of the Sardinian “Bovale Grande” grape variety. This is a red grape which is widely grown on the island of Sardinia, Italy, and is generally used in blends. Bovale Grande is the same clone as the Spanish grape Bobal, which had been brought to Sardinia by the Spaniards at the time of their domination back in the XV century.

However, genetic testing performed at the University of Molise on 22 samples of Tintilia coming from 21 vineyards in Molise conclusively proved that Tintilia is actually a grape variety that is genetically different from Bovale Grande and is indigenous to Molise.

Because of its low productivity, many Tintilia vineyards had been abandoned and this peculiar grape variety risked falling into oblivion, until recently a select number of quality producers from Molise invested in growing Tintilia grapes and in making quality varietal wines from such grapes. Just a few of these commendable producers (with their best Tintilia wines in parentheses) are: Catabbo (Tintilia del Molise Riserva DOC), Cantine Salvatore (Tintilia del Molise Rutilia DOC) and Angelo d’Uva (Tintilia del Molise DOC, the one I got to try that night).

From an appellation viewpoint, Tintilia is one of the red grape varieties allowed for the “Molise DOC” appellation, which was created in 1998 and encompasses an area in Molise surrounding the towns of Campobasso and Isernia.

From a wine tasting perspective, Tintilia wines are generally ruby in color, have fine red fruit (mainly cherries, strawberries, raspberries) and/or black fruit (mainly plums, blackberries, blueberries) aromas and, depending on the aging choices made by the producers, they can give out pleasant spice scents, such as licorice, tobacco and pepper. In the mouth they are pleasantly fruity, with good acidity, defined tannins and a relatively long-lasting aftertaste.

Tintilia is certainly not the king of Italian red wines, but, if you pick a bottle from a quality producer, it is an enjoyable red wine at an affordable price point. Suggested pairings would essentially be meats, from veal to pork to game.

If you want to know more about Tintilia, you may want to read a very interesting and informative article on the Website of Catabbo, a very good producer of Tintilia in Molise, and an article on the genetic testing of Tintilia samples that was published in The Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology.

So, that’s all folks as far as Tintilia is concerned: if you happen to come across a bottle of Tintilia, just give it a shot and let us know how you like it! And by the way, is there anybody out there who has already tried Tintilia out? If so, how did you like it?

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