Italian Whites Will Be Your Summer VIPs
Italian whites don’t get enough respect. If you ask any somm or wine geek, they’ll wax poetic about them—with native grapes from Gargenaga to Greco, Italian whites run the gamut from racy to waxy with tons of flavor and depth. But I’d wager that most consumers still think of Italy primarily as a red-wine-producing country. Truth be told, with its Mediterranean climate and 4722 miles of coastline, Italy is a mecca for white wines. From north to south, there’s a vibrant seafood-based cuisine, and a litany of whites to accompany it. And now that we’re in peak summer, it’s a great time to branch out beyond Pinot Grigio (though we have a killer Pinot Grigio on this list, too!). Here’s a guide to some of the quirky, the fragrant, the down-right delicious Italian whites we have on our shelves, from classics to new wave.
From the Veneto region in northern Italy and the Glera grape, Prosecco is a great warm-weather buddy: It’s charming, fruity, and generally comes with a friendly price. This one from the Bisol family fits the bill beautifully, coming in at $14.99. It’s got a luscious full body with hints of candied ginger and pears. Pair this with succulent summer fruit salads or fresh, ripe figs.
Yes, Pinot Grigio can be dull. But it doesn’t have to be. Proof in point: Ermacora. This winery has been continuously on our Italian roster longer than any other, and with good reason—they produce serious wines that take at least a year of bottle age to really reveal their depth. All of their vines grow on the eastern hills of Friuli, in gentle slopes of "ponca," Friuli’s signature soil, comprising marl and sandstone and ancient sea fossils. Nutty, mineral, lemony, with a substantial weight on the palate, this is not your Real Housewives’ Pinot Grigio.
Located in the Marche region, on the central Adriatic coast, Filodivino’s vineyards are sandwiched between the sea and the Sibillini mountains. They are all organically farmed with an ethos of cultivating biodiversity in the fields. Verdicchio excels in this region, producing fresh wines with the capacity to age well. So well that Filodivino holds their wines for several years before release. This bottling has 4 years on it, but it’s still fresh and extremely succulent, with juicy lime, sea salt, and wet stone flavors.
Also from the Marche, Pecorino (no link to Pecorino cheese) is a zippy, aromatic grape and shows beautifully in this bottle from the organically farmed hills of Piceno. It’s bright and high acid, but still has tons of texture. Notes of white blossoms, ripe peaches, and a hint of salinity thanks to that neighboring Adriatic.
Emidio Pepe is a bit of a natural wine rock star, and his wines are complex and age-worthy. He harvests, sorts, crushes, and destems by hand, then presses the grapes by feet. He only uses indigenous yeasts and adds absolutely zilch to the process. Emidio’s wife, Rosa, hand decants each bottle to eliminate natural sediments and then rebottles it before going to market. And each label is—you guessed it—placed by hand. There are many clones of Trebbiano, and many variations in the wines, but this is an example of what it can do in the right hands. It has so much going on, complex layers of dried apricot skin and cider, broad and spicy on the palate. High acid and lots of intrigue!
Falanghina is a grape that has been around for thousands of years, and may have been the basis for Falernian—the most prized wine of Roman antiquity. This version of it from Terre Stregate (meaning “bewitched earth”) is so delicious, and it’s been in heavy rotation for me this summer. A nose of pineapple and honeysuckle leads to bitter melon and a touch of saline on the palate then a lipsmacking finish. It’s great with prosciutto e melone or a citrusy fish dish.
Fiano is native to Campania, and it thrives in the fresh, coastal Irpinia region with potassium-rich soils left by centuries of Mount Vesuvius eruptions. Delicate aromatics on nose, but broad and beeswaxy on the palate. It opens with air and would be gangbusters alongside an aged cheese.
Sicily went from being a producer of bulk wine to being one of the most exciting zones in Italy, and Mt. Etna is its hot spot, thanks to grapes like Carricante. Graci’s vineyards are located on the north slope of the volcano at up to 1000 meters. You can taste the volcanic minerality in this linear, high-acid wine. The lemony stone flavors are vivid and thrilling.
- Kate Soto