Summer is prime time for white wine, and though it’s winding down, there are still a few weeks left. Hopefully you’re discovering some new white wines from around the world while temperatures are still high. For inspiration today, though, I thought we’d focus on one of the world’s biggest wine-producing countries, Italy.
While it’s often the country’s red wines, like Chianti or Barolo, that get all the attention, the boot-like peninsula also makes some fine white wines, many of which are perfect for summertime imbibing.
As with other European wines, Italian whites are a bit difficult to talk about because we describe them as grape varieties, but also by which specific denominations and even villages they come from, so it can be hard to keep them straight. I’ve listed them below with the names you are likely to encounter on a label or menu, though, whether that is denomination- or variety-specific.
Here are (some more) Italian white wines that you should be sipping while the mercury’s still on the rise.
Arneis: This variety mainly comes from northwest Italy’s Piedmont region. Wines made from Arneis to have bold flavors of peach, pear and even a little nuttiness to them in some cases. In short, they’re hard to pin down. No wonder Arneis means “rascal” in Italian. Try this one.
Catarratto: This white grape is the most widely planted variety in Sicily, so you might have come across a wine or two made from it on Italian restaurants’ wine lists already. It is redolent of bold citrus notes like grapefruit as well as stone fruits like apricot and nectarine. Try this one.
Falanghina: This is rather a minor white variety in Italy, and comes from the southern Campania region, but you might start to see it on more and more wine lists thanks to its mellow, food-friendly character, and tantalizing notes of mandarin orange, almond and white pepper. Try this one.
Fiano: This white grape is primarily grown down south in Sicily and Campania, though the best known come from the area around Avellino, so look for those labeled Fiano di Avellino. Fiano tends to have telltale notes of tropical fruits, white flowers, tree nuts and even an edge of smokiness. Try this one.
Friulano: Formerly known as Tocai Friulano, Friulano comes from northeastern Italy and is related to Sauvignon Blanc. The wines made from it tend to be fruit-forward with notes of green apple, pear and grapefruit, as well as a tart finish that reminds some of bitter almond. Try this one.
Gavi: Gavi is actually the name of a town in the Piedmont that makes white wine from the Cortese variety of grape. If you see one of these on a menu, expect it to be citrusy and fresh, rather light-bodied, with an acidity that can even make your tongue tingle a little. Try this one.
Greco: Another white-wine variety predominantly from the Campania region in Italy’s south, you’ll most likely encounter the most well known DOCG, Tufo, on an Italian wine list. The best of them are uncomplicated but display intoxicating aromas of fresh flowers like honeysuckle, as well as peach and lemon. Try this one.
Prosecco: Chances are you already know about Prosecco, Italy’s answer to Champagne…only at a much lower average price point. Prosecco is made from Glera grapes (which also used to be called Prosecco) as well as a few other varieties that can be blended in. These sparklers are vivacious, zippy and fresh – the perfect aperitif or accompaniment to lighter dishes. Try this one.
Ribolla Gialla: Wines made from this white grape tend to come from the country’s very northeast. Look out for those from Collio, which is famous for it. Wines made from Ribolla Gialla tend to display flavors of citrus, nectarine, pineapple and white flowers like jasmine, but are also quite fresh and balanced. Try them with shellfish. Taste this one.
Soave: Soave is a denomination in the Veneto (near Verona) region where they are famous for white wines. The main grapes in it are Garganega and Trebbiano. Though there are some fine reserve versions, your average Soave doesn’t have a huge amount of flavor or character. But hey, it’s inexpensive so if you’re having a pool party, stock up, put it on ice, and start pouring! Try this one.