Italy may be best known for its big and bold Nebbiolo wines from the Piedmont and Sangiovese wines from Tuscany, but when it comes to versatility, food-friendliness and outright summer sipping pleasure, it is hard to beat a white wine, especially one from Italy. Also, people generally want to take a simpler approach to life during the hot months of summer. Formal dinners give way to simpler, buffet or even picnic-type get-togethers where formidable red wines would be out of place. Rather, these types of get-togethers call for crisp and refreshing white wines that can be served either by themselves for refreshing sipping, as aperitifs or as accompaniment to luncheons or other light summer fare.
There is a great number of different types and range of styles to Italian white wines. Pinot Grigio, Kerner, Pinot Bianco and Friulano wines from northeastern Italy, for example, are aromatic white wines with crisp acidities that provide thirst-quenching refreshment during summer’s hot months. Meanwhile, from the other end of Italy, Falanghina, Greco, Fiano and other whites are extremely versatile, elegant and food friendly. These wines from Italy’s sunny south pair well with virtually any seafood and also are just plain delightful for summer sipping.
Listed below in alphabetical order are ten relatively inexpensive white wines from Italy that will help you pass the summer in style. All are under $25 and are generally available at local wine shops.
Abbazia di Novacella, Kerner Alto Adige Valle Isarco 2009 (about $24)
The Kerner is a relatively obscure white grape grown in the mountainous Alto Adige region in northeastern Italy not far from the Austrian border. The cold-tolerant Kerner thrives in this rugged area and produces wines of the same name that are aromatic with fresh mountain floral scents.
The Abbazia di Novacella is a working monastery that is also one of Italy’s most highly regarded wineries and the Kerner is one of its most celebrated wines. The monastery has been a prominent religious and cultural center since the 12th century and remains so to this day. It has also been producing wines throughout most of that period. Despite its long history, the monastery has managed to keep current with advances in viticulture and wine technology and its wines today rank among Italy’s best.
The ’09 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner is 100 percent Kerner. This wine has a lot of character - full-bodied with nectarine and green apple flavors balanced with good acidity and a little citrus fillip. It is a perfect with full-flavored fish dishes or salads as well as not-too-spicy Thai and curry dishes.
Feudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo 2008 (about $24)
The area around Avellino, not far from Naples and close to Mount Vesuvius in the Campania region, has an international reputation as one of Italy’s premier areas for both red and white wines.
Established in the mid-1980’s, the Feudi di San Gregorio estate is relatively new by Campania standards but has quickly become one of the region’s most highly-regarded producers. The winery had recently added a modern, uber-stylish wine facility that includes a wine cellar, wine bar, tasting room and wine shop. So next time you’re in Campania head to the village of Sorbo Serpico to visit and have a glass or two and perhaps dinner at this state-of-the-art winery.
Greco di Tufo is one of the Campania region’s best white wine varieties. As its name implies, the Greco grape most likely came over with the ancient Greeks. Because of the unique volcanic and clay soil of the area, Greco di Tufo wines are known for their rich and complex tastes with balanced fruit and acidity.
This 100 percent Greco is refreshing and crisp, medium to full-bodied with great structure and zesty acidity that makes it a perfect partner for shellfish, mozzarella, cold cuts and chicken dishes. Alternatively, it’s great to drink by itself and works well as a simple aperitif. Unlike many other white wines, the Greco di Tufo has some staying power and the ’08 is drinking well today.
Jermann, Pinot Grigio 2008 (about $22)
Pinot Grigio is the U.S.’s most popular imported white wine. While Pinot Grigio comes in many different styles with significant differences in body and structure, most Pinot Grigio consumed in the U.S. is the light-bodied, easy-drinking variety. So for some it’s a surprise when they taste the “other” Pinot Grigio – elegant white wines that are crisp, fragrant and structured.
The predominantly mountainous Friuli region in northeastern Italy is generally recognized as the home of some of Italy’s best white wines and Silvio Jermann (yer’ mahn) is regarded as one of Friuli’s best wine producers. While Silvio inherited an established Friulian winery that dates back to the late 1800’s, he produces some decidedly “modern” wines that are richly textured with distinct personalities. Some, like his Vintage Tunina and Dreams, are very popular wines that have achieved cult status in Italy as well as internationally.
The Jermann estate produces a range of white wines and even a few reds. The Pinot Grigio is one of the least expensive wines in his line of white wines. However, inexpensive doesn’t mean low quality – this Pinot Grigio stands apart from any other Pinot Grigio you’ve heretofore experienced. It’s pale gold in color with intense aromas, full-bodied with a dry but velvety taste and a lingering, crisp finish.
The wine is made entirely from Pinot Grigio grapes. Producing a quality Pinot Grigio requires some care and attention. Pinot Grigio is a low acid grape so it’s important to not let the grapes get overly ripe and lose any of their precious acidity which would adversely affect the wine’s intrinsic varietal fruit aromas and crispness. The Pinot Grigio is the first of the estate’s grapes to be harvested, usually the first week in September, and then are fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel at controlled temperatures to enhance the wine’s fragrance and crispness.
The Jermann Pinot Grigio goes well with grilled fish, salt cod with polenta and rich fish soups.
For review of another wine from the Jermann estate see Red Angel on the Moonlight
Livio Felluga, Friulano 2010 (about $25)
The Friuli region in northeastern Italy produces an extensive range of white wines, some of Italy’s finest. They include both indigenous varieties - such as Tocai Friulano, Picolit and Ribolla Gialla - and international varieties - such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, to name just a few.
Friulano is the most widely planted varietal in the Friuli region. Formerly known as Tocai Friulano, the Friuli producers lost a hard-fought battle with the European Union over naming rights for this wine. Consequently, all Tocai Friulano wines after the 2006 vintage are simply called Friulano and use of the Tocai name is reserved exclusively for the famous Hungarian dessert wine.
Livio Felluga has been making wines for over 50 years and the Felluga estate is now one of the top names in Friuli. The estate lays claim to 270 acres on gently rolling slopes in the prime Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC zones. Livio produces a range of single-variety as well as blended white wines in addition to some outstanding red wines. The estate’s best wines bear the distinctive label of a map of the Friuli region designed by Livio himself in the 1950’s.
Livio Felluga’s 2010 Friulano consists entirely of hand-selected Friulano grapes grown on the estate’s vineyards in the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC. After fermentation, the wine is aged in stainless steel containers for 6 months and then spends an additional 2 months in the bottle in temperature-controlled cellars.
This is a white wine with beautiful aromas, complexity and depth. It beautifully complements appetizers and first courses such as prosciutto with melon and cold cuts with fresh cheeses as well as most fish dishes.
Mastroberardino, Fiano di Avellino 2008 (about $22)
The Mastroberardino estate is one of Campania's most renowned wineries. Established in the 1750’s, the Mastroberardino estate’s holdings today are widely dispersed over the ancient wine-growing area of Irpinia in Campania. This area has been known throughout history for producing highly prized red and white wines. The Mastroberardino family is also distinguished for its stewardship of Campania’s winemaking heritage, having rescued several ancient grape varieties, such as Aglianico, Greco, Fiano and Falanghina, from extinction.
Fiano and Greco di Tufo are arguably the most famous and celebrated white wines of southern Italy. Fiano is an ancient southern Italian variety that originated in the Avellino area and thrives in Campania’s volcanic soil and warm climate. Unlike many other whites, the wine’s structure is such that it benefits from a certain amount of ageing.
Mastroberardino’s 2008 Fiano di Avellino has attractive aromas of pears and citrus fruits along with a hint of hazelnuts. It is a rich, opulent, full-bodied white but with better acidity and complexity than one would expect from such a generous wine. It can be served as an aperitif but is probably best when served with dishes involving chicken, pork or veal.
Oppida Aminia, Caucino Greco 2008 (about $15)
The 2008 Oppida Aminea “Caucino” Sannio Greco is comprised entirely of Greco Bianco grapes sourced from the estate’s vineyard in the Sannio zone not far from Benevento in the Campania region. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel and then spend four months ageing in large oak casks and three months in the bottle prior to release for sale.
It is a full-bodied white with a textured but not ponderous mouth feel. Healthy doses of peach and grapefruit flavors with a hint of pineapple roll across the tongue. It is a structured, balanced wine with good body and alcohol, just enough acidity and a long, juicy finish. A great wine to accompany those light, end-of-summer meals or any time of year for that matter.
Suavia, Soave Classico Superiore 2008 (about $19)
This is the real thing – what Soave is really supposed to taste like. Once one of the U.S.’s most popular imported white wines, Soave wines fell into disfavor in the 1960’s and 1970’s as their commercial success led producers to reduce standards and emphasize quantity at the expense of quality.
Suavia is one of a small number of wineries that have worked diligently to counter this negative perception of Soave by producing lovely, elegant wines of character and distinction. Suavia’s Soave Classico Superiore is made entirely of Garganega (gar gah’ nae gah) grapes hand selected from premier hillside vineyards that encircle the towns of Soave and nearby Monteforte d’Alpone. This is the heart of the historic Soave Classico zone where the grapes for the best Soave wines are grown. The “Superiore” designation is reserved for only the best, most carefully made wines.
One sip of the ’08 Soave Classico Superiore from Suavia will convince you that you are on to something special. It has a straw-yellow color with generous lemon and faint peach and apple aromas that saturate the nose. The taste is really lively and fresh with good acidity. This is a delicious Soave that may well be one of the best white wine values today.
Terredora, Falanghina Irpinia 2009 (about $18)
Established in 1994, the Terradora estate is one of the newer wineries in Campania. However, within a short period, Terredora established a well-deserved reputation for producing high-quality wines.
The Falanghina grape is often overshadowed by Campania’s two other more famous white varietals - Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. However, it is very quickly gaining attention and critical recognition for producing nuanced, delicious wines.
Made entirely from Falanghina grapes sourced from vineyards around Irpinia, Terredora’s ’09 Falanghina is pale straw yellow in color with lemon and other spritzy citrus flavors. This medium-bodied wine has a fresh, clean, dry taste, good acidity and a long, floral finish. This is a crisp, lively and fruity wine from one of southern Italy’s best producers.
Vietti, Roero Arneis 2009 (about $24)
This well-balanced, fresh white wine is from one of my favorite producers in the Piedmont region. While this wine has a color so pale that it is almost translucent, it nonetheless offers rich and intense floral and citrus aromas, a complex structure and a long finish saturated with pear and peach notes.
This medium-bodied wine goes well with a variety of foods such as light appetizers, salads, various seafoods as well as uncomplicated veal and chicken dishes.
Zenato, Lugana “San Benedetto” 2009 (about $14)
This wine is crafted entirely from Trebbiano di Lugana grapes from the Zenato estate located on the southern shore of Lake Garda in north-central Italy. The grapes are fermented and aged for 6 months in temperature-controlled steel tanks and then spend a few months in the bottle before release for sale.
This is a wonderful expression of a Trebbiano wine. This is a dry, delicate wine with good peach and pear-flavored fruit and balanced acidity. Serve it with grilled seafood or gnocchi with pesto or simply drink it by itself – it will make the hot summer days seem a little cooler.
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