Italian White Wines for Spring

Wines to expand your horizons, from the land of vines

 


Enotria, the land of vines, was the ancient Greek name for Italy and a very appropriate one at that. Today much of Italian white wine is dominated by a handful of white wine varieties, yet it remains full of local, indigenous varieties that offer subtly different and unique expressions of a time and place.
 
With spring slowly arriving, and summer threatening, we all tend to slowly switch over to drinking more white wines. This season of change is the perfect time to move outside one’s comfort zone and discover the true variety of the world of wines. I’ve gone over a few unusual varieties over the past few weeks and today, ironically, I return to my comfort zone, which includes the regional white wines of Italy. With so much variety, you can spend the entire spring and summer exploring these wines, and I hope these few examples serve to get you started!

White grape image via Shutterstock

2010 Bastianich Friulano Adriatico Colli Orientale dei Friuli 13% $15

Friulano, formerly known as Tocai Friulano is a native of the Friuli region in Northeastern Italy. Often compared to Sauvignon Blanc, to which it is related, Friulano produces richer, softer wines typically with orchard and pit fruits flavors and notable floral and herb accents.

Smokey and floral on the nose with hints of brie, dusty minerals and lots of chalk and a touch of green herb. On entry this feels just a touch loose, but it firms up nicely, wrapping a creamy gauze of pear and apricot fruit around a spice of mineral and bitter almond flavors. There's nice weight here, but it remains refreshing, with a zesty, rather long almond and mineral finish. 88 points

 

2010 Terredora di Paolo Falanghina Irpinia 12.5% $15

Falanghina is one of the most historic vines in Italy, probably brought to the coast of Campania by the Greeks a millenium ago. A wine with assertive minerality, Falanghina also typically shows citrus fruits and a slight bitter almond note on the finish.

Richly aromatic, with warm orchard fruit and slightly tropical citrus aromas accented by a nice sweet floral note. Moderately rich on entry, this shows fine tension between the fine base of sweet citrus fruit and sharper floral and mineral notes, gaining a hint of smoke and a touch of bitterness on the back end. This is refreshing without being overly acidic and shows good richness for a medium-bodied white wine. Great for white fish. 88 points

 

2011 Zenato Lugana San Benedetto 13% $14

Lugana, a famed winemaking region that hugs the southern edge of Lago di Garda in Northern Italy is produced with the local variety of Trebbiano, which genetically is virtually identical to Verdicchio. In the rather rich alluvial soils of Lugana, the grapes produce wines with a slightly rich, silken texture, full of soft orchard and citrus fruits and a nice mineral twang on the finish.

A nice suggestive sweet edge of baked apricot and lemon tart greets the nose followed by hints of jasmine, ginger and wild flowers. Relatively light-bodied, this is aromatic in the mouth, with a lovely spine of citrus flavors accented with hints of bitter apple, pollen and a touch of almond and orange rind. The finish picks up on the pithy flavors, extending the finish with lemon and lime notes. 88 points

 

2011 Capestrano Verdicchio di Matelica 13% $11

Verdicchio, aka Trebbiano di Lugana (and Trebbiano di Soave for that matter), is the name used for this grape in the Marche region, around what would be the back of the knee in the boot of Italy. In the Verdicchio di Matelica region, the wines produced in the local mineral rich hillside vineyards tend to be rather focused and crisp, with prominent flavors of peaches and an assertive, almost salty minerality. 

This smells of big ripe peach and stinky volcanic soil all covered in a bit of cheese ring. A bit tense and firm in the mouth, this opens with assertive earthy, mineral notes followed by gentle white fruits suspended on a rather angular frame. There's plenty of cut on the palate, with a hint of tannin that drives the medium length, dusty dry and refreshing finish. Not a fruity wine, this is a bit simple and subtle but beautifully built. A really fine food wine. 87 points

 

2011 Alois Lageder Muller Thurgau Dolomiti IT 12.5% $15

While not an indigenous variety per se, Muller Thurgau is in fact a Swiss cross of Riesling with the decidedly obscure Madeleine Royale developed in 1882. Interestingly, Madeleine Royale, a very early ripening table grape, is in fact a cross of Pinot Noir and Schiava, another grape deeply associated with Italy’s Alto Adige region. Muller Thurgau is widely planted in Germany, where it’s known as Rivaner, but many of the best examples come from the Alto Adige, where they produce lovely summer whites, full of floral aromatics and decidedly fruity flavors of peaches, tropical fruits and green herbs.  

Quite fruity on the nose with layers of peach, kiwi, chamomile and wild flower aromas and just a hint of maraschino cherry. Light weight and fresh in the mouth, this brings lightly peachy flavors to the table wrapped up in lightly nutty and floral suggestions. There’s a hint of green herb and citrus on the back end, which leads to a relatively long if simple and acid-driven finish. Simple and refreshing. 86 points

 

2011 Baglio del Sole Inzolia Feudi del Pisciotto Sicily 12.5% $11

Inzolia, aka Ansonica, has a long and important history in Sicily, primarily as one of the base grapes used in the production of Marsala wine. Now used to produce table wine, it’s a grape that can produce notably rich, if flabby, wines if harvested too late. But when picked at the right moment, the wine can bring considerable richness and structure with its almond- and herb-inflected fruit flavors, yet remains lively in the mouth.

Waxy and lightly smoky on the nose with a nice base of grapefruit, topped with floral and orange oil aromas. Simple, clean and refreshing in the mouth, this shows off light melon flavors framed with citrus and mineral accents. It's almost medium-bodied and easy to drink, with a lovely touch of astringency on the finish that refreshes the palate. 85 points

 
Slideshow View

Italian Whites for Spring

1.
Bastianich Friulano (2010)
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2.
Terredora di Paolo Falanghina Campania IGT (2010)
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3.
Bardolino Chiaretto Rose Bardolino Chiaretto Rose Weingut Az. Agr. S. Cristina Zenato-San Benedetto Lugana (2011)
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4.
Capestrano Verdicchio Verdicchio di Matelica (2011)
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5.
Lageder Pinot Bianco (2011)
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6.
Baglio del Sole Inzolia Sicilia IGT (2011)
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