WASHINGTON – Last week, I talked about touring Italy with red wines, which is great, but Italy, the second-largest wine producing country in the world also makes world class white wines.
When most people think of Italian white wines, they think of Soave and Pinot Grigio – which is fine, but there is so much more to explore in Italy.
The grapes used to make Italian white wines are numerous and include both native and non-native varietals, including Arneis, Cortese, Moscato, Chardonnay, Picolit, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano, Verduzzo, Muller-Thurgau, Nosiola, Traminer, Garganega, Trebbiano, Vespaiola, Malvasia, and Vernaccia.
While it may seem like a challenge to keep them all straight, the broad assortment of white wines gives consumers the luxury of selecting wines that pair with a plethora of cuisines and taste preferences.
Abutting the Swiss border at the northern edge of Italy is the region of Trentino where Torre di Luna excels in producing value-oriented wines. The cooler daytime temperatures provide an ideal climate for the 2011 Torre di Luna Sauvignon Blanc Delle Venezie IGT. The straw colored wine has an intensely aromatic bouquet filled with aromas of tropical fruit and citrus blossoms. The bright acidity accents the grapefruit and lemon/lime flavors and gives the wine a refreshing boost. The medium-bodied finish is crisp and light and just cries out for a plate of seafood risotto. $10
Also located in Trentino is the Istituto Agrario San Michele, where the vineyards are dedicated to the education, experimentation and preservation of native varietals. The winery of San Michele is located as an extension of the research facility and focuses on the modern production of wines from indigenous grapes, like the 2011 San Michele Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC. The nose has distinctive scents of peach and nectarine fruits and wet stone. The fruity-yet-dry mouthfeel supports notes of peach nectar, pear and citrus flavors. The bright finish displays a nice mineral undertone that allows this wine to stand on its own or enjoyed with roasted chicken. $16
Immediately to the south of Trentino is the Veneto region, home to the Bisol family, where over 21 generations have been involved with the historic winery located in the ODGC area of San Stefano di Valdobbiadene. From their 300-plus acres of vineyard comes the stunning white sparkling 2010 Brisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOGC. The blend of glera, pinot bianco, and verdiso come from a single vineyard where the sub-soil is composed of marine sandstone, known as “crede.” The terrain acts as a reservoir for the vines, pulling water away and giving it back as the fruit needs it. The elegant nose offers up honeysuckle and bright apple while the medium-sized bubbles carry flavors of apple, pear and baked bread over the entire palate. Perfect for making Bellinis (the famous sparkling cocktail with pureed peaches) or paired with sushi. $18
In the northwest corner of Italy is the famous wine region of Piemonte, best known as the home of the red grape nebbiolo. But this is also where the Broglia family estate of La Meirana makes the delicious 2011 Broglia La Meirana Gavi di Gavi DOGC from 100 percent Cortese di Gavi grapes from a single vineyard. The wonderfully aromatic nose is filled with scents of wildflowers and ripe peaches. In the mouth, the wine feels richly textured as layers of ripe peaches, apricots and nectarines vie for attention on the tongue. The bold structure and substantial acidity make this wine a candidate for aging a few years, but if you must drink it today, try it with grilled Branzino. $17