13 Jun,2018 By Jagabond
Why has no one told me about Sant’Agata De’ Goti before now? When I first heard the town name, it reminded me of the self-indulgent classic rock song ‘In A Gadda Da Vida’ and I even caught myself humming the annoying tune. Similar to other Italian towns like Castelmezzano, Sant’Agata sits beautifully on a rock cliff. Calling the town picture worthy is a gross understatement.
Before I start talking wine I’d like to walk you through the town. Local wineries often take on the character of their surroundings, so giving an overview of Sant’Agata is relevant. Like interesting facts? Sant’Agata is near the site of the ancient Samnite town Saticula, which the Romans ravaged back in BC times. It was home to one pope and many famous bishops. An earthquake in the 15th century nearly completely destroyed the town. New Yorkers might recognize the name De Blasio. The current mayor of the big apple has familial roots in Sant’Agata, and they proudly support him here.
Sant’Agata is cute and unspoiled. If tourists found out, it might get quickly ruined. I remember a town in Spain called Santillana Del Mar. It had the look of a touristy town, so it embraced it and became one. Now the town is full of buses, selfie sticks and junk shops. Sant’Agata holds onto its authentic look. As I walked the streets, I stumbled upon an antique shop with a phone I nearly bought, and some modern art that resembled two robots kissing.
The town’s name honors Saint Agatha. After becoming a consecrated virgin, a Roman began aggressively pursuing her, determined to corrupt her faith. She refused his advances, so he had her arrested, then confined to a brothel where she endured weeks of rape and abuse. Saint Agatha suffered through torture in prison until her death at only twenty years of age.
After that brief summary, let’s talk wine. The Mustilli winery in Sant’Agata has been producing bottles since 1979. In fact, they produced the first ever 100% Falanghina. Before their attempt, the grape was always used as a blend. This helped grow the Falanghina brand into one of the most popular wines in the region. Today the seminal bottle is proudly on display in the Mustilli cellars.
Anna Chiara, the daughter of the founder, was an amazing tour guide. She also introduced me to the winery mascot, a big and beautiful dog named Nana!
Mustilli has great interior designers. I particularly liked the display of books with wine bottles and a strange looking face.
The building housing Mustilli was formerly a church, so the cellar was very large and ideal for the winery business. The cellar’s floor entrance was perfectly medieval.
I love when wineries display their historic bottles, creating a wine museum. Mustilli had one in their cellar, including a Greco di Tufo aged more than thirty years.
Anna Chiara was very knowledgeable about the business. She spoke of how this cellar was now for tours only, as it’s logistically difficult to run a winery from the historic center of Sant’Agata. That’s a good point. Tradition is great, but getting trucks down these narrow streets would be challenging.
She walked me through the significance of the wine labels. The one on the right has a crown from an old church fresco in Sant’Agata, and the left represents the famous bridge leading into town.
These weren’t the best wine labels I saw that day. The vintage Falanghina label was artsy and elegant.
After the cellar tour Anna took me to the other building for lunch. The grounds were beautiful, with a cool antique looking fountain in the back.
All the food was based on her mother’s recipes. An antipasto plate started things off, followed by a dish of beans and spinach, then pasta with tomato sauce. It sounds simple, but the flavor and freshness of everything was perfection. An Australian tour group was also there at the lunch. Anna Chiara confirmed that groups of up to twenty people can be easily arranged.
I almost forgot to mention the wine! The Mustilli Greco is outstanding, probably the best I’ve had outside of Tufo. Falanghina in this region is like Chardonnay in California…it’s everywhere and really good ones are hard to find. This was my favorite Falanghina so far in Italy. I’m solely a white fan, but I even tried their light red and liked it. The Piedirosso was aromatic with a slight flowery or perfume taste.
Fittingly after lunch, I found this amazing piece of street art on an adjacent building. Is the message that wine can lead to enhanced romance?
Mustilli Winery: They offer not only cellar tours and lunches, but cooking classes as well. This was one of the best winery experiences I’ve had in Europe. Visit and you won’t be disappointed! Check out their website at www.mustilli.com, or contact them to arrange a tour at firstname.lastname@example.org or +39 0823 718142.
How to get there: Sant’Agata is just outside Benevento, and only an hour drive from Naples. It’s not a pleasant drive, as many of the roads are poorly kept and riddled with potholes.
Where to stay: Le Rocce is one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at in Italy. Set just outside the historic center, they have a large, clean swimming pool with a great view of the town.