Italian red wines may get all the attention, but insiders know that Italian whites are as varied and interesting as the country’s reds. Italy’s multitude of mountains and hills ensures wines with bright acidity—the hallmark of Italian whites. Acidity is what makes a wine food friendly, and Italian white wines do not disappoint. From appetizers through dessert, there is a perfect Italian white for your table.
The best Italian white wines for appetizers
Catarratto Bianco is Italy’s most planted white grape variety. Native to Sicily, Catarratto is a major part of Sicily’s Marsala blend but for many years it was not well-regarded as a single varietal. However, a number of determined producers have learned how to coax the best out of this white grape and the results are light, interesting wines that showcase harmonious citrus, herbal and mineral notes.
Vermentino is an important white grape for several Italian regions. The most widely planted grape in Liguria, it also maintains importance in Tuscany and Sardinia. Vermentino loves the sea and the best examples express saline characteristics and brisk minerality.
The best Italian white wines for the first course
Verdicchio is one of Italy’s highest quality white grapes. It is particularly important in the Marche region, which has two DOCs dedicated to its production—Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. Verdicchio crafts lively wines with bright acidity and sophisticated citrus and herbal notes. These white wines are the perfect complement to refined seafood dishes.
Garganega is the grape variety behind the famous wines of Veneto’s Soave appellation. Wines from this white grape are noted for having a rich texture, impressive acidity and an interesting combination of citrus, floral and bitter almond notes. Garganega is another Italian white variety that ages well, especially those that have been barrel fermented.
The best Italian white wines for the main course
Timorasso is an ancient Italian grape from Piedmont’s south-eastern corner. It is experiencing a renaissance as more and more people discover the high-quality, distinctive wines this grape produces. The wines showcase bright acidity balanced by a creamy mouthfeel. Timorasso is a white grape that ages beautifully and shows its best after a few years in the bottle.
Vernaccia is the jewel of Tuscany’s San Gimignano, a spectacular walled medieval town south of Florence. The Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG encompasses vineyards surrounding the hilltop village and this white grape is rarely found elsewhere. These are crisp, delicate wines, with beautiful floral aromas complementing a savory minerality.
The best Italian Dessert Wines
If you know anything about wine, you have probably heard about Moscato Bianco. The grape crafts lightly sweet wines that range from slightly fizzy to sparkling and are sometimes simple, but always delightful. Piedmont’s Moscato d’Asti appellation showcases the very best this popular grape has to offer. It is a delicate wine of great finesse, with ethereal perfume and balanced sweetness. A beautiful match with fresh fruit and lighter confections, Moscato d’Asti is the perfect end to any meal.
Italy has a remarkable tradition of dessert wine production. Referred to as “passitos,” these wines are made with grapes that have been dried on mats before fermentation. This “appassimento” process concentrates sugars, creating complex aromas and flavors. While definitely sweet, Italian dessert wines are perfectly balanced by bright acidity. White grape versions include Recioto di Soave and Torcolato from Veneto, Picolit and Ramandolo from Friuli, Tuscany’s Vin Santo and Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily.
BY Kirra Barnes
Wine educator, writer and editorial assistant for the Wine Scholar Guild.
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