Classy and Cool Italian White Wines for Summer Al Fresco Activities


Spring is in full bloom and summer is almost here and you’ve probably already moved your patio furniture outdoors in anticipation of outdoor (or al fresco) entertainment and dining.

And whether it’s relaxed snacking on your patio, hors d’oeuvres for a garden party, a picnic lunch in the park or dining with friends, there is a great Italian white wine that’s perfect for the occasion. In terms of versatility, food-friendliness and outright summer sipping pleasure, it’s hard to beat a white wine from Italy.

Listed below are ten Italian whites that are ideal companions for a wide variety of outdoor entertaining and dining occasions. Some are aromatic with crisp acidities that are ideal companions for picnic-type snacks, hors d’oeuvres at a reception, any dinner where fish or shellfish is on the menu or simply as refreshing summer sippers.

Other whites are more full-bodied with fruity flavors, textures and intensities that demand more substantive and/or flavorful fare such as elaborate seafood dishes or grilled, herb-flavored white meats or poultry.

The wines range in price from $14 to $25 so they are relatively inexpensive. But “inexpensive” doesn’t mean “cheap” in the sense of poorly made, insipid and soulless wines. All 10 wines on the list are from quality-oriented producers that market intense and textured wines with a sense of place. These are wines that you would be proud to serve at any gathering of friends, family or special guests.

Although some wines may be harder to find than others, all are available in major U.S. markets. The wines are listed in alphabetical order by producer.

Abbazia di Novacella, Kerner Valle Isarco Alto Adige 2017 (about $20)
The Abbazia di Novacella is a working monastery located in the Valle Isarco DOC in the mountainous Alto Adige region, Italy’s northern-most wine-growing appellation. With roots stretching back to the first-half of the 12th century it is one of the oldest continuously-operating wineries in the world. Despite its longevity, the Abbey has 2017 Kerner Valle Isarco from Abbazia di Novacella in Alto Adige regionkept current with advances in viticulture and wine technology and has long been known for producing world-class white wines with tremendous quality-to-price ratios.

Kerner is a cool climate variety that thrives in the higher elevations of the Valle Isarco DOC, one of Italy’s premier white wine appellations. Here, Kerner produces intensely aromatic, full-bodied wines with generous white-fruit flavors.

The ’17 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner is made entirely of 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 or shellfish dishes and has the stuffing to side with grilled white meats and poultry as well as not-too-spicy Thai and curry dishes.

Banfi, “Principessa Gavia” Gavi 2017 (about $16)
Gavi is a category of white wine made entirely of Cortese grapes (sometimes referred to as Cortese di Gavi) grown in the Gavi production zone centered around the town of Gavi in the southwestern part of Italy’s Piedmont region. It is the Piedmont region’s most famous white wine and one of the first Italian white wines to gain international recognition. It received official DOC classification in 1974 and DOCG status in 1988.2017 "Principessa Gavia" Gavi from Banfi winery

Harvested in late summer, the Cortese grapes are soft pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures to enhance the wine’s delicate aromas and crisp flavors.

The 2017 Principessa opens with fragrant green apple and melon aromas. It’s delicate and lean with lively acidity, pleasing pear and citrus fruit flavors, fine-spun texture and a dry, crisp, pleasing finish. It’s a great wine to serve with appetizers or by itself at informal walk-around summer get-togethers.

Donnafugata, “Anthilia” Sicilia Bianco 2017 (about $16)
This medium to full-bodied, piquant wine from the acclaimed Donnafugata estate in south-western Sicily exhibits has an exuberant personality evocative of its Mediterranean patrimony. This wine consists primarily of the indigenous Catarratto grape with some splashes of a few other local white varieties. It is aged in stainless steel tanks and spends a few additional months in the bottle prior to release for sale.

The 2017 Anthilia is straw-yellow in color with some white fruit (apple and pear) aromas complemented with some floral notes that follow through in the flavors along with a streak of some zippy lemon zest. It is crisp and lively with good acidity yet complex and structured with good mouthfeel and a long, satisfying finish.

Gini, Soave Classico 2016 (about $16)
Gini is one of the Soave appellation’s best wineries that year after year produces lovely, elegant wines of character and distinction. Gini’s Soave Classico is made entirely of Garganega grapes hand selected from 70 to 90-year old vines in vineyards located on Monteforte d'Alpone hills in the Soave Classico DOC zone.

The grapes undergo fermentation initiated with wild yeasts and the wine rests on its lees (the sediment of yeast left over from fermentation) for 6 months at low temperatures in order to retains the wine’s fresh, fruity profile. The wine is straw-yellow in color with green-gold reflections and generous lemon and green apple aromas. The taste is lively and fresh with good acidity. The winery practices organic principles and the wine is certified organic.

This delicious and inexpensive Soave may well be one of the best white wine values today.

Gioacchino Garofoli, “Podium” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC 2015 (about $25)
This wine is from the Marche region of Italy and is made entirely of Verdicchio, the region’s most celebrated grape variety. The producer, Casa Vinicola Gioacchino Garofoli, is located in the hilly Classico zone of the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC area. With a history dating back to the turn of the previous century, it is the oldest family-owned winery in the Marche region.

2015 "Podium" Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesu Classico Superiore from the Gioacchino Garofoli wineryThe grapes for Garofoli’s Podium come from a single vineyard where the vines are tightly cropped to reduce yield and the grapes late-harvested for extra ripeness and added alcohol.  The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel for 15 months and spends 4 months in the bottle before release.

The 2015 Podium checks in with 14 percent alcohol and is made to go the distance, from 6 to 10 years after the vintage date. The Podium is a serial recipient of Gambero Rosso’s coveted Tre Bicchieri award which distinguishes it as one of Italy’s best wines.

The wine is a golden color with green highlights and enticing white fruit and citrus aromas. It is medium-to-full bodied with medium acidity and a rich and silky mouthfeel that borders on creamy. It’s a soft but substantive expression of a white wine that will complement elaborate seafood dishes as well as grilled, herb-flavored white meats.

Mastroberardino, “Novaserra” Greco di Tufo 2016 (about $21)
The Mastroberardino estate has a wine lineage dating back to the 1750’s and is the oldest winery in the Campania region of Italy with a long history of producing celebrated wines . While it would be easy to rest on its laurels, the Mastroberardino winery has never lost a beat and today produces a variety of acclaimed red and white wines.

Greco di Tufo is one of the Campania region’s best white wine varieties and Mastroberadino one of its best producers. Made entirely of estate-grown Greco di Tufo this wine has plenty of class and shows just how good Greco di Tufo can be. Named after the Mastroberardino vineyard from which the Greco grapes are sourced, Novaserra is celebrated for its weight and concentration, excellent acidity and pleasant note of bitter almond on the finish.

Ottella, “Le Creete” Lugana 2018 (about $24)
The wine is crafted entirely from Turbiano (also known as Trebbiano di Lugana) grapes sourced from Ottella’s Le Creete vineyard in San Benedetto, a village just a little inland from the southern shore of picturesque Lake Garda in north-central Italy. Harvested in October, the gr2018 "Le Creete" Lugana from the Ottella wineryapes undergo a slow, temperature-controlled fermentation and the wine is aged for 6 months on the fine lees for additional depth and complexity.

This is a wonderful expression of a Trebbiano-based wine. It is dry and delicate with good peach and pear-flavored fruit but with sufficient acidity to keep it refreshing and zesty. Keep a slightly-chilled bottle on hand for any summer menu with rice, pasta or simply-prepared fish dishes.

Palazzone, “Campo del Guardiano” Orvieto Classico Superiore 2014 (about $21)
This is a terrific and intriguing wine from the Orvieto area in Umbria, an area not otherwise generally known for noteworthy wines. This cru wine is made with 5 local white varieties hand-selected from the Palazzone’s Campo del Guardiano vineyard, the estate’s premier vineyard.

The Campo del Guardiano is aged for 6 months in steel tanks with an additional 2 years in the bottle prior to release. It is straw-colored with intense fruit aromas and is full-bodied with a richness that gives it a silky mouth feel. This Orvieto Classico is a real bargain at $21 and should be the go-to wine when you feel the need to reward yourself or for a small get-together with appreciative friends.

This wine has the heft to complement roasted or grilled fish or white meat dishes, risotto with funghi and simple pasta dishes.

Santadi, “Villa Solais” Vermentino di Sardegna 2017 (about $14)
Vermentino is a late-ripening, white grape variety that is grown widely in southern Europe but flourishes on the island of Sardinia where it produces lean, crisp wines with subtle but enticing aromas and flavors.

Villa Solais is a blended wine with 70 percent Vermentino and 30 percent Nuragus, another popular Sardinian white wine variety. The wine is straw yellow in color with subtle but persistent aromas of citrus and white fruit. Fine-spun pear, green apple and lemon-lime flavors glide across the tongue supported by Vermentino’s signature acidity.

This is a delightful wine for summer sipping - or any time of year for that matter.

Tenuta Le Calcinaie, “Simone Santini” Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017 (about $18)
Tenuta Le Calcinaie is a small but beautifully situated estate just 2 miles from the postcard-pretty Tuscan town of San Gimignano. The estate has followed organic farming protocols for over 2 decades and all its wines are certified organic.

2017 "Simone Santini" Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tenuta Le Calcinaie in TuscanyThe Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG is Tuscany’s major white wine appellation. Although it’s a relatively small area in terms of total acreage, there is a range of styles of Vernaccia produced here depending on cellar practices and ageing protocols.

The 2017 Simone Santini (named after the estate’s current owner and winemaker) is made entirely of estate-grown Vernaccia grapes that are cold-fermented for 3 weeks and then aged on the lees in steel vats until the following spring.

The 2017 Vernaccia di San Gimignano is medium-bodied and dry with peach and dried orange flavors overlaid with crisp citrus notes and good acidity that keeps the wine crisp and snappy. It’s an invigorating wine ideal for light first courses, especially if they involve any kind of fish or shellfish.

Note – prices indicated are averages of national retail prices as of this posting and prices may vary from store to store. While some wines are easier to find than others, well-stocked wine shops will carry most if not all the wines listed. But stores may sell out so best to call in advance to check on price and availability.

©Richard Marcis
June 20, 2019

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