When one thinks of great Italian wines, immediately the great reds pop into mind: Brunello, Barolo, Chianti, Amarone, etc. World class wines that are in demand all over the world. When one thinks about white wines, however, different associations are made. Food friendly, quaffable, light, cheap, and so on. There are some great white wines to be found in Italy to be sure, Indeed I’ll mention a few in this post. However, if one goes to the store and looks for a white Italian wine, and stumbles across a Verdicchio, Soave, Vernaccia, Prosecco, etc. One will not predictably come across a fine Italian white wine, because the majority of the Italian whites are cheap in more ways than one.
Part of the responsibility for this state of affairs lies with the winemakers themselves. They release wines the year the harvested. They overproduce wines that can only be called at best an agreeable marriage of alcohol and water. There is a certain element of greed and missing of a dedication to the love of winemaking that one finds all too easily with the red counterparts.
Of course another major influencer is the consumer. The consumer who would rather have a cheap wine to wash down seafood with, or mix into a spritz than to really enjoy a good wine. Most of the fine wine aficionados will favor the fresher white wines that are one or 2 years old at the most, assuming the stereotype that Italian wines, even the finest wines can’t age. Nothing can be further from the truth.
This situation is improving with new winemakers arriving on the scene that have a new sense of dedication to quality and fine winemaking practices. Likewise there are old and storied vineyards that make fine wines that the rest of the industry feels they can rest on their laurels (as opposed to their own). Specifically there are three wines I would like to discuss (I’ll save Prosecco for its own entry later).
These three wines are Bucci Verdicchio Reserve, the Peiropan Soave and last but not least, the Planeta Etna Bianco. I purposefully pick three large wineries so my friends outside Italy have a fighting chance of finding them. These wines, you can safely serve and dazzle your guests with a surprising wine experience.
A great Verdicchio: The Villa Bucci Reserve 2018 is an amazing white wine from the Marche region central Italy. Because italian wines are less known for this high quality you can buy it relatively cheaply compared to French or American wines of the same quality. The secondary flavors of herbs and pears are delightful and allusive, while the scent of honey adds another surprise in a wine that is bone dry. The wine is a thrilling taste treat one would expect from an 80 euro bottle of French wine, while it sells for half that price.
An amazing soave Classico: The Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico of 2018 is another amazing rich white wine experience. The Soave, from the Veneto region, uses the Garganega grape varietal which when cultivated correctly will yield a delicate but bountiful taste experience. The herbal secondary flavors adding apple and citrus with a lively acidity and spiciness makes this wine another stellar addition to one’s wine cellar.
A fine Sicilian wine: Planeta’s 2020 Etna Bianco is another fine wine and this one is the most astonishing inexpensive one at 12 euros a bottle in italy. The grape varietal is Carricante, an ancient local Sicilian grape. As a varietal wine, Carricante produces a fresh, straw-yellow, very fragrant white wine that grows in the upper echelons of the Mt. Etna volcano where the wine gets its pronounced floral bouquet and minerality. This wine also has peach and grapefruit notes with a charming acidity giving it a rich taste and a dry finish.
So the next time someone knocks italian white wines, as I just have, you have at least 3 killer wines to refute the over-generalization that there are no great Italian whites. And these are just 3 wines from 3 wine areas without having picked wines from the outstanding whites of the Alto Adige, Tuscany, nor the Friuli-Venezia Giulia among many others. But you have to look for them, do your research and if the price of an italian white is very low, chances are you will get what you pay for. But if the wine is in the middle to high range of price and quality, then chances are it will generously over-deliver.