Spring is upon us and we’re finally out of the winter weather, I think. It is time to transition into the mindset of enjoying the fresh outdoors again if you’ve been bottled up this winter. With the change in seasons comes a change in tastes and of course the wine we enjoy with that cuisine. No more hearty soups, stews and heavier meat-based dishes. We’re now starting to think of fresh vegetables and other lighter fare to go along with it. Maybe for some us there is a shift in wine preferences from the bolder, heartier Italian red wines to lighter style reds or the transition into white wines. Even though Italy is known a lot for its reds, there are plenty of great whites grown throughout Italy to be enjoyed.
Today I’m going to highlight one white grape from each section of Italy including the north, central and southern part of Italy. Maybe you’d like to try and seek out something different to add to your wine repertoire this spring.
Northern Italy – Garganega
One of my favorite parts of Italy for white wines is northern Italy. I tend to gravitate towards this part of the country when it comes to selecting white wines. I personally enjoy the crisp, clean and refreshing whites that are produced there. The regions in northern Italy have a lot of climatic influences of lakes, seas and breezes blowing from the alps. These changes and fluctuations in temperatures between the day and the night are what helps create a great balance and acidity in the wines produced there.
With so many white wines to choose from it’s hard to pick just one, but today I’m going to share with you the garganega grape. Found in other regions of Italy, garganega can be found mostly in the wines of the Veneto where it produces wines known as Soave.
Soave is a “white wine in the land of reds”. When it comes to reds the Veneto is known for their valpolicella, bardolino and amarone, but the whites here are not to be overlooked. Soave is primarily made up of the garganega grape, but can also be blended with trebbiano di soave, chardonnay and additional grapes. There are different designations of Soave including Soave Superiore, made from higher alcohol and longer aging, and Soave Classico, from the historical area of Soave, worth seeking out. There is even a recioto di soave, which is a sweet style of this white wine, but may be a tougher find. Also, the Soave wine region just recently joined the national heritage list.
Central Italy – Verdicchio
I’ve always enjoyed the Vernaccia wines of San Gimignano when it comes to central Italian whites, but over the last year I have had some enjoyable white wines of the Le Marche wine region that I wanted to highlight. Those wines are made of the verdicchio grape, the star of this region when it comes to white wines. Not a region one rushes to grab a bottle of wine from, but the Verdicchio wines of the Castelli di Jesi and Matelica areas of Le Marche are wines you should be considering. Producing slightly different styles the wines, Castelli di Jesi produces wines with mineralality and that are softer and rounder styles of verdicchio, where the verdicchio produced in Matelica are florally, but a little sharper and with a little aging it will help to relax these particular wines.
Southern Italy – Fiano
In southern Italy you typically face warmer climates and the white wines here tend to bring on more tropical, richer notes than those of the north. Another difficult choice with so many whites to choose from, but I’m going to go with the region that my father’s side of the family is from, Campania, and more specifically, Avellino. Known as enotria, or the “land of wine”, many wonderful reds and whites are produced in Campania. The most notable grapes here that produce white wines are greco di tufo and falanghina, but along with that is the fiano grape. Fiano is produced in Avellino (known as Fiano di Avellino), one of the top areas for wine production in Campania. Fiano is a wine consisting of good body, complexity and produces rather aromatic notes.
Obviously this is only a sampling of a white grapes from each part of Italy, but with the summer months coming we have many more to highlight and for you to explore. You can find further information on each of these regions and grapes on my site, Vino Travels, along with some particular wine recommendations. As always I welcome emails and I’m happy to offer further suggestions.