Italian white wines: the magnificent six!
Perfect for summer, and ideal for keeping too. Italian white wines have finally earned a well-deserved place in the fascinating history of Italian wine which had been dominated by reds until very recently. Come with us to discover the six most astounding white wine regions in the country!
Are you looking for a fresh white wine, ready to drink without further ado, to accompany an aperitif or to pair with cheese or starters? Or a more complex, deep, mineral white wine... a majestic white, ideal for laying down too? Whichever style you prefer, there is an Italian white wine for you. And remember our tip; choose wines made from local grape varieties.
Here is our list of the six most outstanding white wine regions in Italy, a list brimming with stories, history, characters and sensations taking you into the heart of the most unique terroirs. White wines from the coast, the mountains, volcanoes, lakesides... and all offering excellent quality at great prices as only Italian wines can. Local grapes in each region will convince you to spend a summer full of Mediterranean flavours and aromas.
Among the best Italian whites, Soave wines express the typicity of volcanic wines from the north created from the wonderful Garganega grapes. Soave is a marvellous region with gentle hillsides hiding extinct craters and a checkered volcanic landscape made up of chalky, alluvial, sandy, and basaltic soils.
Garganega is one of the best and most significant white grapes in Italy, native to the Veneto region and above all to the Soave and Gambellara districts. Already cited between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it produces, in addition to the Soave and Gambellara DOCs, dry white wines, some sweet wines of the territory, deriving from its drying: Recioto di Soave, Recioto di Gambellara, which can also be sparkling, and the vin santi of Gambellara and Soave. It also performs well as a dry spumante and withstands maceration on the skins, expressing extraordinary minerality, thanks to the volcanic soils of this area, and longevity.
Garganega, although not characterised by a marked aromaticity, possesses a range of fragrances that oscillates persuasively and with great elegance from white flower to almond, sometimes with a citrine backbone: elements which give the wine not only an excellent persistence, which never tires, but also a sensational longevity, such as to guarantee the great bottles of Soave with a conservation of more than ten years. A late variety, Garganega has acidity and excellent balance between structure, generally agile and slender, and softness. In the most sought-after cases, it likes vinification and/or ageing in wood. Specifications allow the garganega to be blended with Trebbiano di Soave and some international varieties such as Chardonnay.
Fiano di Avellino
A grape of very ancient origin, fiano is certainly a pre-Roman Italic grape, cultivated by the Latins in southern Italy and probably native to the area of Lapio, in Irpinia. In fact, the name means "from Lapio", admitting the derivation of "fiano" from "lapianum", then "apianum". Today fiano is widespread not only in its territory of origin, but also in various areas of Campania, such as Cilento, and in Puglia, towards Murge, where there is also a local variant called minutolo (according to recent studies, this grape variety is totally independent from a genetic point of view). Fiano is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most significant white grapes in Italy, especially for the minerality and longevity of the wines it produces, and certainly the most significant in the South.
Often with excellent sugar concentration, in the best area, that of the Fiano di Avellino DOCG, it expresses an unparalleled minerality, which translates into notes of flint and gunpowder in the top versions. Precisely in order to preserve this highly elegant profile, which easily evolves into hints of hydrocarbon, it is generally vinified and aged in steel only, and it is preferable to put it on the market after at least a year in the cellar.
Verdicchio is, without mincing words, one of the greatest Italian white grape varieties. A vine that is still not fully appreciated, but which for versatility and personality is at the top of international white wine production. After all, what might have been a disadvantage for years - extreme territoriality - today is Verdicchio’s real strength: a vine that is at one with the territory that, almost unique, hosts it. Verdicchio and Marche are in fact the spouses of a perfect marriage.
It is on the hills of Jesi, among the ancient castles of the ancient Marca, that Verdicchio has found a unique habitat, with a climate that is still Mediterranean but already mitigated by the cool currents of the interior, with beautifully exposed soils rich in mineral deposits that give the grapes backbone and structure.
But the gold of the Marche region is not only in Jesi. It is also in Matelica, immersed in the valleys of the Apennines, where a mountain Verdicchio is produced, decidedly finer and sharper, of impressive elegance. A wine that shares with its brother Jesi the excellent response to long aging, and consequently one of the most appreciable longevity among all Italian white wines, which can exceed 20 years.
Lugana is the most notable of Lombardy's white wine and it's also one of Italy's most highly-acclaimed wines. Originating from a tiny area to the south of Lake Garda, lying among the gentle, legendary hills of chalk and clay surrounding Desenzano, Sirmione and, then in the Veneto, Peschiera. Here, the climate, lake and land offer vineyards and people too a breezy habitat and pleasant conditions.
The land where Catullus was born is also the ideal birthplace for an elegant Trebbiano, with personality and unquestionable quality: the Trebbiano di Lugana. A grape variety which can be enjoyed in fresh young wines, sometimes sparkling, but also in other more developed and even sweet wines.
The Lugana is a complex wine which appears a yellow colour with greenish and golden hues. On the nose it reveals floral scents and fruity notes which range from citrus to apple and peach. It often also conveys a lovely mineral undertone and always conserves an exceptional fineness and freshness which endow the wine with a long ageing potential.
The carricante is the white grape typical of Etna that, between volcanic material and lava flows, has always been cultivated on the ancient terraces of the volcano at altitudes and exposures, especially along the south and east side, not suitable for the Mascalese red wines. It is here, on the eastern side, that the harsher climate and the considerable diurnal ranges give the wine intense perfumes and aromas. Once vinified in blends with other local white varieties, such as minnella and inzolia, today it generally competes as a single variety with Etna Bianco, revealing exceptional minerality, tension and longevity. The wine has a pale straw yellow colour. The bouquet is elegant, with delicate fragrances of orange blossom and white fruit, apple, citrus, aniseed. On the palate, it expresses a lashing acidity and a textured sapidity, clearly volcanic, with mineral returns of flint. The structure is never overwhelming, as a top-class mountain wine, it lends itself both to aging in steel only, to enhance freshness and fragrance, and to the movement to wood, if one prefers to privilege complexity and softness.
Il Friuli: ribolla e friulano
Whites are the pride and joy of Friulian wine, so much so that the region is considered a white wine area par excellence. A classic native grape variety from all over Friuli is the friuliano, once called tocai. Fresh and almond-flavoured in the finish, the friuliano is capable of a significant evolution, which leads it to assume a more complex mineral profile, with notes of hydrocarbon and flint.
Great in the Friuli Colli Orientali DOC and Collio, like the ribolla gialla, another protagonist of the regional wine identity. Structured, with excellent acidic body and complex fragrances, the ribolla expresses itself superlatively also in the orange version, as it has a solid skin rich in polyphenols. Sublime on the Eastern Hills, in the Collio area it often takes on these features, especially in the Oslavia cru, where a large part of the vineyard is dedicated to it and where it gives extraordinary balsamic, ethereal, salty sensations after long maceration on the skins and equally long-lasting ageing in wood or amphora.