Discovering Italian Whites

Identifying some of the top values of the season. It’s time for you to try them!


Time to do a little cellar cleaning and what better way to start than with the odds and ends of Italian wines that have been building up in the basement. Sadly theres no real cohesive theme here, though a few varieties do appear more than once among the tasting notes that follow. There’s not even a pricing paradigm that’s  useful here, though most of the wines do fall in the $15 to $22 range. In one way that’s not a bad thing. It’s always interesting to see how wines stack up against each other and where the values really lay. 

For the most part the more expensive wines here did outperform the less expensive wines with one important exception. Tedeschi’s 2010 Soave Classico Capitel Tenda ($15) was stunning on this occasion, a real precise and deep example of often overlooked Soave and if history is any guide, this wine has a very bright future ahead of it. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a case to enjoy this summer and over the coming years. It should prove fascinating to follow over the course of its five to ten year lifespan.
This of course is exactly why I do what I do. Ferreting out values, and identifying wines that might be best avoided are what this is all about.  Of course there i a huge educational component involved as well, particularly in instances such as this where disparate wines are pitted against one another. You have to know what a wine is like, and what your palate preferences are before you really can make much use of these results listed below. 
If you prefer fruit bombs or a lot of oak influence on your white wines you’re not going to dig the Soave as much as I did. In fact in generally Italian whites might not be the spot for your to be tasting around in in that case. Generally rather clean and fresh, the world of Italian white wine is one fo the most diverse in the marketplace today and with that diversity comes a lot of confusion. 
To simplify things just a bit, and to make use of the results of this tasting, I’ll just touch on the winning wines here, those that pair value and quality. The Tascante, at $22, is a fabulous wine though it comes out at the top of the pricing scale. Carricante is an ingenious white variety of Sicily and it tends to produce rather subtle, elegant wines with plenty of savory character and minerality. I love the grapefruit edge I often find in good examples and while the Tascante is riper, it packs in tremendous nuance which made it my favorite wine of this bunch.
I’ve already touched on the Soave so next up is the 2012 Cantina del Taburno Falanghina. Not the most common variety, and rarely found outside of Campania in Italy, Falanghina is an ancient variety.Reputed brought to Italy by the Greeks, it’s one of history’s great wines, and today the variety is as good as ever. A bit herbal on the nose with a pleasant bitter twist on the palate, it’s a really food friendly wine and one that in a sea of insipid crisp white wines often stand out with it’s distinctive character. 
Next up, both literally and figuratively, is the 2012 Goretti Grechetto ($16) from Umbria. A bit of a shy cropper, though with noteworthy resistance to disease, Grechetto historically was a component in Umbria’s famous white wine from Orvieto. Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to visit Orvieto the town is lovely and the cathedral, breathtaking! The wine’s not bad either.  Goretti’s example comes from further to east, the hills around Perugia, and captures the beauty of this variety with it’s savory transparency and firm structural components. Another example of a nuanced and not particularly fruity Italian white.
Rounding out my top five wines is the 2013 Casale Marchese Frascati Superiore ($13) from Lazio, near Rome. Frascati is a light, fruity and simple wine. That’s just the way it is , and in the right moment it can be brilliant. Refreshing, friendly, and easy on the wallet. Zesty with citrus fruits and a hint of minerality, this is what August requires: a fine bottle of chilled Frascati, preferably accompanied by a chilled seafood platter!
Grechetto is one of the allowable grape varieties in Frascati, though most examples are heavily dependant on Trebbiano with a bit of Malvasia for perfume and perhaps a dollop of Grechetto for structure. The example from Casale Marchese includes both Trebbiano and Malvasia, along with two more obscure varieties: Bellone and Belvino. Try a bottle this summer and you can cross those two varieties off your century list!
So that’s a brief rundown on a few Italian whites that you might want to try this summer. No need to be intimidated by all the wines out there. Find a few to try, and see what you like. If you enjoy any of these wines, there are other examples from different producers that can help you learn whether it’s the grape variety or blend you enjoy, or the producer’s style. 
That’s the key to learning about wine and enjoying it ever more. Fortunately for us the research involves drinking the stuff. I don’t think you have an excuse for avoiding your research, so get out there and add a new italian white to your summer repertoire this weekend!

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7 Top Value Italian Whites tasted in 7/2014

Tasca d'Almerita Tascante Buonora Carricante (2012)
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Tedeschi Soave Classico Capitel Monte Tenda (2010)
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Coppo Gavi la Rocca (2012)
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Marchesi di Frescobaldi Vermentino Ammiraglia Toscana (2012)
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Cantina del Taburno Falanghina (2012)
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Goretti Grechetto (2012)
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Casale Marchese Frascati Superiore (2013)
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