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The Ten Best Italian White Wines: A Beginner’s Guide

The Ten Best Italian White Wines: A Beginner’s Guide

Italy’s white wines are as diverse as the country’s reds. With a trove of native varieties, there is an Italian white wine to fit every budget and every occasion. In fact, there are so many choices that shopping for an Italian white wine can be overwhelming. It doesn’t help matters that many of the white grapes have similar looking names. However, you don’t have to memorize an encyclopedia to find the perfect wine for dinner.

Just knowing a few key wines will ease the confusion and simplify the shopping trip (hint, if the grape or wine name has a “v” in it, you will probably love it.)

Three Italian white wines to buy for special occasions

The range of Italian white wine styles is staggering. From top quality sparklers, to exquisite dry wines and rich dessert wines, Italy fits the bill for every occasion from start to finish.

Italy’s best sparkling wine is Lombardia’s Franciacorta. These high-quality wines are made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco using the traditional sparkling method. Because of warm growing conditions, Franciacorta is often made with little or no dosage. These are great and often less-expensive alternatives for fans of extra-brut or brut nature Champagne.

The Friuli region should be your destination for top-quality, cutting-edge white wines. The cellars of the Collio and Colli Orientali appellations are known for being among Italy’s most innovative and technologically advanced. The long-lived “super-white” blends of native Italian and international grape varieties will impress even the most jaded of wine lovers. Friuli is also on the forefront of the “natural wine” movement. The region’s “orange” wines are a must for anyone curious about what happens when white wines are made with skin contact. Though these unusual, cerebral wines may not ultimately appeal to everybody, they will definitely provoke lively discussions.

Italy’s dessert wines rank among the most luscious in the world. Most are made with grapes that are dried before fermentation (the appassimento method). The drying technique concentrates grape sugars, creating rich, honeyed wines balanced by natural acidity. Known as “passito wines,” excellent examples include Trentino’s Vino Santo made from the Nosiola variety and Tuscany’s Vin Santo, primarily a blend of Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca.

Four Italian white wines to buy for dinner

Italy has hundreds of native grape varieties—one of the aspects that makes Italian wines so special. The country’s white varieties are distinctive, but most exhibit Italy’s hallmark acidity, making them perfect food wines.

Vermentino di Gallura is made on the island of Sardegna and is considered among the world’s best expressions of the Vermentino grape. This variety loves to be near the sea, and these crisp wines showcase mineral and saline characteristics.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano is Tuscany’s jewel. This native variety produces delicate white wines featuring beautiful floral and fruit aromas that are matched with a savory character.

Marche’s premier white wines are made from the versatile Verdicchio grape in the winegrowing areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica. The best wines of Castelli di Jesi are textured, full-bodied wines capable of aging. The Matelica growing district is cooler and produces wines with higher acidity and amplified citrus and mineral notes that also age well.

Soave is among the Veneto region’s best known wines and for good reason. Based on the Garganega grape, these wines range from light and fruity quaffs to intensely aromatic and richly textured versions. The appellation’s classico zone in particular is known for distinctive wines of character.

Three Italian white wines to buy on the hottest day of the year

There are many times when the best wine for the moment is not necessarily the “best” wine you have. The hottest days of summer definitely prove this theory. When the thermostat rises, few things refresh as well as a crisp, citrusy and mineral Italian white wine.

Frascati hails from Lazio and lies just to the south of Rome. This light-bodied and refreshing wine quenches the thirst of patrons of the capital city’s cafés.

Native to the Marche region, the recently re-discovered Pecorino is quickly becoming one of Italy’s hottest white wines. Producing structured wines with high acidity, Pecorino’s herbal-citrus notes are reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc.
Orvieto is Umbria’s best-known white wine. Though the appellation produces a wide range of styles and quality levels, at the most basic, these wines are pleasantly bracing and refreshing.

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Kirra Barnes

BY Kirra Barnes

Wine educator, writer and editorial assistant for the Wine Scholar Guild.

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