Even those who consider themselves experts on Italian wine may look at you with a blank face when you mention “Tintilia”. When further asked which country they think it’s from the likely response is “Well…Spain…of course…” followed by an unsure shrug & the plain desire etched on their face to switch the topic back to Barolo. This lack of recognition is not uncommon. After all, we are talking about the native grape of a region that for many doesn’t even exist. (A story for another time)
Today, Tintilia is considered by many in the region to be Molise’s most important grape variety. However, this current recognition hides a turbulent history. Years ago it was almost lost forever. This was followed by numerous debates about its origin, requiring the University of Molise to step in and settle the matter.
Now Tintilia is making a triumphant return, helping to slowly spearhead a movement aiming to introduce the world to the unique culinary offerings available from the small and overlooked region of Molise.
It’s my hope that this article provides a short intro to this unknown grape from an often-overlooked region & maybe even entices you to give the wines of Tintilia del Molise a try.
Native to Molise?
There was some debate on whether Tintilia was native to Molise or not. The old narrative, which you may still see, is that the vine arrived during Spanish dominion and that its name comes from “Tinto” meaning red in Spanish. Others also stated that it was the same grape as Bovale Grande (Carignan) or Bovale Sardo (Graciano) from Sardinia, suggesting that the grape wasn’t even a distinct variety; that dare I say, it didn’t even exist.
However, today the general consensus seems to be that it’s native to Molise, Italy and has been recognised as such. Claudio Cipressi, a producer who took a risk on Tintilia back when it was less well-known, states that research done by the University of Molise confirmed it’s native routes back in 2000. Other sources back this up.
However, whatever it’s origins, there is no doubt that Molise is now the home of Tintilia and the region that best expresses its unique character.
Lost but Not Forgotten
Post World War II Tintilia virtually disappeared due to a combination of depopulation in the internal rural areas and a move to higher-yielding more profitable grape varieties. The man credited with saving Tintilia is Giuseppe Mogavero (1937-2015) who in the 1970s worked towards re-introducing Tintilia to the region. He followed this up by helping obtain the Tintilia del Molise DOC, in 2011, ensuring the link between Tintilia and Molise would remain even after his passing.
From the 2000s many vineyard owners have worked towards bringing this grape back from the edge. I’m happy to report that when we moved here in 2019, although Tintila’s international profile was still not as high as it should be, there are a wealth of producers creating exciting and brilliant wines from this fantastic native grape.
And the Wines?
Tintilia is known for its low yield, resulting in intense flavours in the final wine & it can do well at altitude, making it a great fit for hilly Molise.
The wines are known for their deep colour and high alcohol with most clocking in above 14% and often more. This high alcohol is balanced by soft smooth tannins and intense primary fruit flavours.
So what flavours can you expect? For me, it’s usually the Ripe Cherry or Sour Cheery that hit me first combined Blackberry & Plum. The best wines are complex with additional red & black fruit flavours from across the board. To ensure these varietal flavours aren’t lost Oak is rarely used and with age, the best can develop Earth, Leather and also a unique aroma of Balsamic.
And the Body? It depends. I’ve had some that are full-bodied & intense and also those that are lighter & more delicate. Each of these wines coming from villages no more than a few kilometres apart. However, like most Italian wine, a consistent rule is that Tintila goes well with food, especially the local speciality of Wild Boar.
Different producers are able to produce a variety of wine styles meaning you can, with a bit of research, find a Tintilia to suit most palates.
I’m Sold! Where do I start?
With Tintilia’s low international profile it can be difficult to get your hands on a bottle. However, Tannico.com & Tannico.co.uk, who delivery to both the US & UK respectively, stock various Molisian wines.
If I had to make two suggestions from the page I would recommend trying: –
- Tintilia del Molise DOC “Sator” 2009 – Cianfagna
- Tintilia del Molise DOC “Macchiarossa” 2014 – Claudio Cipressi
The Sator is the fuller-bodied wine and can benefit from decanting for an hour or so before drinking. The Macchiaroosa is slightly lighter (but still packs a punch) and is made using organic production methods. You can’t really go wrong with either.
If you can pair these with grilled meat or even better lamb you’ll thank me!
The hard work is continuing by producers in Molise to Promote Tintilia to the wider world. I hope this article has helped in that effort and sparked your interest in the Wines of Molise. Going forward, I will be bringing you more articles on the wines & the winemakers of this unique Italian region.
Want to Explore More?
To really explore the wines of Molise head over to Molise Cuisine for details of wine-tasting events & organised vineyard tours. I have partnered with some of the best vineyards in Molise to provide you with a unique insight into the regional wine & food available from this unspoiled region.