Love is ...Italian White Wine
When discussing Italian white wine, many think of Pinot Grigio and venture no further. Maybe it is the language barrier or maybe it’s just a lack of wine experience. Who can be sure? Did you know that Pinot Grigio is not even the most widely planted white grape in the country! When you lift the lid on the Pandora's box of white wines of Italy, you’ll discover - wow - a lot of freshness, flavour and affordability often sitting on the shelf right next to “reliable” Pinot Grigio. These styles can offer up crisp, fruity freshness that pairs perfectly with seafood, salads or patio sipping to richness and elegance perfectly suited to roasted Mediterranean chicken and pork dishes. Are you ready for some excitement and adventure in the discovery of many characterful and quality native Italian grapes? If so, read on.
Considering that most of Italy is touched by the sea, let’s look to the Italian coast for refreshing summer drinking white wines. Italy is home to a stunning array of white wines with regional influences suiting cuisine and climate. From Liguria to Sicily and the Veneto to Puglia, there really are so many diverse white wines waiting to meet you. Consider richer styles including Vermentino di Gallura and Greco di Tufo to the fresh floral flavours of Falanghina and citrusy, mineral Sicilian whites from Mount Etna. Now that the lid is off the box, here are three white wine varieties for you to remember.
Three Grape Varieties to Remember
If I could offer you three new grape varieties to consider when next shopping for white wines, it would be these three – Falanghina (partly because I love saying it), Verdicchio and Vermentino. Of course there are many more varieties but with these three, you will have a versatile list, the experience of place, and style that connects without a big explanation – something that Pinot Grigio lovers will understand. These styles suit summer fish tacos, prawn salads and crab Louie or a simple cheese board.
Falanghina – (fal –an-gee-na) is one of the rising stars of southern Italy. Its home is Campania (think Amalfi coast) and growing in and around Naples. This is an old grape variety first recorded in 1666 in a poem (ah – those Italians). The beauty of this variety is freshness, along with stone fruit aromas and flavours. This is a mid-weight wine that is dry, fresh and well balanced. Drink this now and enjoy with fresh fish or on it’s own. Prices are $20 to $30 and available at both the government and private wine stores e.g. Marquis Wine Cellars
Verdicchio – (ver-dee-kee-o) is one of the Marche’s most famous white wines. With two DOCs, Castelli di Jesi (simpler rounder) and more recently Verdicchio di Metalica (finer and firmer), Verdicchio is having a bit of a renaissance as winemakers are finding ways to bring better balance and structure. The aromas are nutty and citrusy, the body is almost full and yet it has this amazing texture and freshness with a bitter almond finish considered its’ trademark. Some say it’s a red dressed up as a white. You decide. Verdicchio also shows up as Trebbiano (di Soave and de Lugana) both excellent options although winemaker styles come into play here with some barrel age. These wines can age but are great to be consumed young. Great pairings suggestions include simple seafood dishes like grilled calamari, or plump scallops or peel and eat prawns. Depending on the producer and style, bottle prices range from $20 to $40 and can be found in both government and private stores.
Vermentino – (ver-men-tee-no) is another storied variety that found its way from Piedmont to Liguria and south to Tuscany and Sardinia. Here you will find a wine with weight and structure, noted for it’s racy acidity. Aromas and flavours are citrus, green apple, nuttiness, and dried leaves. Drink now! It goes well with seafood, cheese and white meats. Quality styles are affordable ranging from $20 to $30 here in the BC market and available at both government and private stores.
How to discover white wines of Italy?
If you are a white wine lover and want to expand your shopping list, join us for “Not Just Pinot Grigio – Italian White Wines". This is a zoom wine class with Mark Shipway. It's an opportunity to learn by watching, interacting and tasting wine with him. Mark guides you through the regions, history, geography, grape varieties, producers and food pairings that will expand both your Italian vocabulary and your wine palate.
Stay tuned ... more on wine and cheese recommendations in our next blog post.