Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Regional Tour of Italian Whites

By: Eric Guido

I remember a time when I would tell people that I only liked “Red” wine. I still hear people say this from time to time and it makes me smile. The idea that there’s something inferior or less enjoyable about white wine, is now humorous to me. It all started with a glass of aged Riesling. With time, Sauvignon Blanc joined my list of favorites. However, what I was truly missing was the vast array of unique whites wines that are made in my favorite wine producing country, Italy.

Most countries specialize in a few white varieties, while some can claim to produce four to six worth exploring. Italy, on the other hand, produces more unique white wines than I could possibly keep track of. Each region of Italy boasts a number of white wines proudly. To list them all would be exhaustive, and likely prove impossible.

However, nothing makes me happier than knowing that I can call upon Italy to fill all of my white wine needs. Especially as summer approaches, having a selection of different Italian whites, promises that you will always have a wine to pair with just about any meal you can dream up. From light and refreshing, poolside sippers, to big, rich wines that crave a serious meal, and everything in-between.

Below you’ll find Italian whites from eight different regions, along with a brief description of its style, a tasting note and what I would pair with it. Enjoy.

Valle d'Aosta  (Muscat) This wine may not be what you'd expect from a typical Muscat (usually with a hint of sweetness), yet it's well worth searching out. This dry style of Muscat shows beautiful floral notes on the nose, which carries well into the finish. A classic Italian treat, Melon and Prosciutto would be an excellent pairing partner for this highly expressive wine.

2011 Maison Anselmet Muscat - The nose was exotic and intense with spicy floral notes, ripe peach and minerals. On the palate, it showed inner floral notes, flower petals; soft pit fruits and beautifully balanced with a long floral finish. Beautiful. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Friuli (Pinot Grigio) If you're still drinking Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, I beg you to stop and explore a little. Although this wine isn't a textbook example of the variety, it is one that will show you what Pinot Grigio is truly capable of. The Vie di Roman Pinot Grigio spends extra time fermenting on the skins, giving it a copper hue, a unique set of aromas and a weighty presence on the palate that has to be tasted to be believed. As for a pairing, a plate of pasta dressed with pesto sauce would be a perfect fit.

2010 Vie di Romans Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio Dessimis - It showed a slight copper tone in the glass. The nose was slightly restrained on the '10 Pinot Grigio Dessimis, yet with gentle coaxing revealed peach skins, underripe nectarine, and yellow flowers. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with white stone fruits, flower petals, and a bitterness that combined with the wine's acid structure to create a lovely balance. The finish showed a dry, structure which leads me to believe that a few years in the cellar will be required to show this wine's true colors. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Trentino Alto Adige (Gewürztraminer) Slowly becoming one of my favorite white wines, Gewürztraminer, shows such a unique floral spiciness with a weighty, almost oily presence on the palate. With a hint of sweetness, these wines make the perfect companion to spicy Chinese, Thai and Indian curries.

2011 Kellerei-Cantina Tramin Gewürztraminer Alto Adige - Südtirol Nussbaumer - The nose showed tropical fruits, spice and stems with a hint of balanced sweetness and floral notes. On the palate, it was rich, but not overwhelming, with an oily texture followed by notes of peach, pear and spice. The finish lingered long with spicy inner floral tones and peach slowly melting away from the palate. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Liguria (Bosco and Albarola) The wines of this tiny region are so impacted by the coastal influences of the neighboring Sea, that you can practically taste it in the wine. Imagine sitting at the beach on the Ligurian Riveara, during a beautifully sunny day, and the wine you put to your lips completes the moment--That's Cinque Terre. I would pair this with a fresh batch of fried calamari with just a twist of lemon and pinch of salt.

2009 Campogrande Cinque Terre - The color was yellow-gold and very pretty in the glass. On the nose, i found apricot, grapefruit, a spritz of lime; followed wet minerals, herbal tones and raw almond. On the palate, it seemed almost weightless carrying the floral notes from the bouquet into the mouth, with notes of grapefruit, orange peel and a bitter twinge that puckered the cheeks. The finish started dry with a bitter citrus note, but soon made the mouth water and left me feeling completely refreshed. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Emilia Romagna (Malvasia & Trebbiano) Another truly unique wine that continues to open up in the glass, the La Stoppa Trebbiano Ageno is far from your average Trebbiano. The nose explodes with layer after layer of exciting aromas while it dominated, and then refreshed the palate. For me, a great pairing would be a mixed greens salad with citrus vinaigrette.

2007 La Stoppa Ageno - The nose showed lush ripe apricot, spicy florals and potpourri with a dark and soothing character that drew me in. On the palate, it showed an initial burst of acidity and almost fizante style, yet it settled with time in the glass and revealed a juciy mix of bitter citrus pith, dried orange, and inner floral notes that lasted through the long finish. My first few sips of this wine deceived me, with time it blossomed to show it’s hidden beauty. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Sardegna (Vermentino) Sardinia is an Island off the western coast of Italy, which is just as effected by Spain as it is Italy. Vermentino is a highly aromatic, medium bodied wine with zesty acidity that pairs beautifully with grilled fish, especially Sea Bass.

2011 Nuraghe Crabioni Vermentino di Sardegna - The nose showed citrus with sea minerals, and almond skins. It caressed the palate with soft textures showing white fruits, which turned tart through the medium-length, juicy finish.(89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Calamari in Zimino
Abruzzi (Trebbiano) Another Trebbiano, but I had to include it, as this is not your average Trebbiano and should be on your bucket list of Italian wines. The Valentini Trebbiano demands your attention with earthy minerals and beautiful notes of the coast. These wines can be enjoyed young but really shine with a little age. My favorite pairing for this wines is Zuppa di Pesce, or one of my own recipes Calamari in Zimino.

2007 Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo - The nose showed lemon with minerals and sea tones, followed by earthy schist and green stems. On the palate, it was clean and balanced with soft citrus tones, followed by notes of ripe melon and stone. The finish was pure with mouth-puckering acidity ushering through flavors of citrus and stony minerals. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Sicilia (Grillo) Sicily is like a nation onto itself, with multiple climatic regions throughout the island. The wines here also take on a very different personality. Grillo, is an aromatically intense wine with a medium-bodied texture, hint of sweetness and intensity on the palate, which opens up many opportunities for pairings. Grilled seafood, rich chicken dishes and moderately spicy asian cuisine would all pair well with this Sicilian native.

2010 Feudi del Pisciotto Grillo Carolina Marengo - The wine showed a golden-yellow color in the glass with intense, spicy florals notes with ripe white fruits. On the palate, it was rich, with oily textures showing peach and inner floral tones with zesty acidity, which kept it clean and juicy throughout the finish. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!


** The best part about this tasting were the people I enjoyed it with. This Italian White Wine tasting was hosted by Snooth for their "People's Voice Wine Awards". My tasting companions were made up of some of the best wine bloggers from around the country. Below are links to their impressions from this exciting lineup of wines. Enjoy!

The Reverse Wine Snob: Excellent Italian Whites - Exploring the White Wines of Italy Including Two Bulk Buy Selections

Benito's Wine Reviews: Snooth PVA: il gran giro d’Italia con dodici vini bianchi

Vindulge: Learning about the white wines of Italy with Snooth – one region at a time

Wine Julia: #SnoothPVA: Indigenous Varietal Italian White Wines From North to South

My Vine Spot: #SnoothPVA: White Wines of Italy

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