Winery: Cougar Vineyard & Winery
Product/Varietal: 100% Falanghina
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Rick Buffington
2015 vintage received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.
2018 vintage received 89.5 points on Cellar Tracker.
3.2/5 stars on Vivino (all vintages).
How They Describe It
Falanghina (fah-lawn-GHEE-nah), is a take on an ancient grape from Campania, Italy. There are various theories on the origin of the varietal’s name with most agreeing that it derived from the Greek work falangos, which refers to the wood poles that support the grape vines. This system of vine training is still used in some parts of Campania and is referred to as “puteolano”. Falanghina is a robust and consistent grape that has the advantage of being extremely eclectic, allowing it to express the characteristics of the terroir in the aroma including those of the soil, the climate and the rich biodiversity found in the Temecula region. Crisp Anjou & Asian pears show on the nose along with Gala apple & white flowers. Nice citrus flavors appear on the palate with lime pith & pink grapefruit. Matches well with scallops, prawns, or clams as well as pastas with white sauce.
How I Describe It
In the bottle, the Cougar 2019 Falanghina bears similarity to Minute Maid® Lemonade. In the glass, the wine is an even paler lemon yellow, resembling Pinot Grigio in color intensity.
The Cougar 2019 Falanghina features big aromas of pear, nectarine, and apricot (similar to Viognier), as well as pineapple, mango, and lemon zest. Lighter notes of Fuji apple, elderflower, and a certain calcariousness round out the nose.
Rich, fruity notes of pineapple, nectarine, and lime juice manifest on the front. Undertones of lychee, apple, mango, and elderflower join in. Hints of honeysuckle, grapefruit, and wet stone appear on the finish.
This is a dry wine, and with 14.2% ABV alcohol is considered high — even by red wine standards. Juicy medium-plus acidity contributes to a medium body. It’s worth noting, compared to lower-alcohol whites (i.e., 13% and under) this wine has a more viscous mouthfeel; however, the 2019 Falanghina’s acidity is more crisp and refreshing than malo-heavy wines, like buttery Chardonnays. Flavor intensity is medium-plus, and the finish is long and pleasant.
Why is This Wine Special?
There are two things about Cougar Vineyard & Winery which I absolutely love. First they include tech notes on most of the wines they have in stock. If you’re nerdy, like me, I totally encourage you to geek out over the tech notes they prepared for the 2019 Falanghina.
Second, as I’ve written before, Cougar Winery is among the few — not just in Temecula, but across the winemaking world — to experiment with little-known varietals. In this case, Cougar literally blazed the trail. Falanghina is an old varietal in the Campania region of Italy, but its introduction to the United States was thanks in whole to Cougar owners Rick and Jennifer Buffington. In fact, to this day there are only two other US wineries producing Falanghina, and they’re doing so thanks to Cougar Winery.
And, boy, are we thankful they introduced Falanghina to us. For anyone who enjoys crisp, fruit-forward, dry whites, the Cougar 2019 Falanghina checks off all the right boxes.
Its stone fruit flavors and mouthfeel mirror the best of Viognier, without the characteristically bitter finish.
Its tropical fruit characteristics parallel what we love about unoaked Chardonnays.
And its citrus notes are a brighter version of fresh Pinot Grigios.
Major kudos to go Cougar Winery, not just for introducing us to such a rare varietal, but for crafting it so well.
When & How I Would Drink It
The Cougar 2019 Falanghina is an absolute must with seafood — particularly shellfish. The wine’s acidity blends well with raw oysters and clams. Meanwhile, its fruitiness would pair well with stewed mussels.
Cougar’s winemaker is also spot on with the recommendation to pair with white sauce pasta dishes. Dairy- and butter-full dishes need a wine which can cut through the richness, and the 2019 Falanghina fits that role perfectly.
Additionally, this is a wine you’ll want to keep on ice while drinking. The fruit characteristics are pronounced enough that they won’t disappear due to chilling. And reduced temperature along with the wine’s acidity will heighten its crispness, counteracting some of the viscosity from the alcohol. Then again, the wine’s floral notes intensify as it gets closer to room temperature, so you win either way.
Last, similar to Viogniers and unoaked Chardonnays, consider popping open a bottle of the 2019 Falanghina with sushi, cooked salmon, roasted chicken, and even spicy Asian cuisine.
How to Get It
Order: https://www.cougarvineyards.com/contact or call (951) 491-0825
Bottle Price: $28 (discounts for wine club members)
Cases Produced: 340 cases
Have you tried the Cougar 2019 Falanghina? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.