A look at some Italian white wines.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers September 23, 2009
Home to many of the world’s finest red wines, Italy also produces many excellent whites from sites all over the nation. Using some familiar grapes like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon as well as indigenous varietals, Italian winemakers are crafting some true beauties. Although the producers’ names may be difficult to remember, or pronounce, it is worth searching for these enjoyable, food-friendly wines.
Mention Pinot Grigio and most wine drinkers will ask for something else. The mass produced plonk is certainly thin and one-dimensional, but the grape becomes something special in the caring hands of winemakers from Trentino-Alto Adige in northeastern Italy. The appellation is a roughly Y-shaped area in the central aspect of this mountainous region along the Austrian border. The finest examples are stainless steel fermented and have a purity of fruit and complexity that belies the grape’s reputation.
Established in 1893, Cantina Andriano was the region’s first cooperative. The vineyards are located in the fan-shaped valley at the base of Mount Gantkofel, 260 to 340 meters above sea level. The cool local climate contributes to the grape’s characteristic crisp acidity. Purchased by Cantina Terlano in 2006, the new owners have wisely maintained the Andriano wines as a separate label. The Cantina Andriano Pinot Grigio Alto Adige 2008 ($18) is simply delicious, with spicy apple, peach, bright acidity for balance and a refreshing, mineral enhanced finish. The St. Michael-Eppan winery was awarded Best Italian Winery in 2000 and its winemaker Hans Terzer is considered one of the world’s 10 best. The St. Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio Alto Adige 2008 ($15) is medium-bodied with lush aromas of white flowers and apples leading into pear, peach and apple notes along with citrus acidity and a complex finish.
The region also makes some tasty Chardonnays in a crisp rather than silky style. Named after the nearby Lake Caldaro, the Viticoltori Caldaro cooperative was established in 1906. It produces a number of delightful wines including the single-vineyard, medium-bodied Viticoltori Caldaro Chardonnay Alto Adige Wadleith 2008 ($19) that exhibits sharp, slightly tart apple, pineapple and banana flavors with some minerality in the longish finish. Produced by the Cavit cooperative, the Maso Toresella Chardonnay Trentino 2007 ($10) is made from grapes grown in the Valley of the Lakes. A true value, it is a bit richer than other examples and has apricot and tropical fruit flavors along with vanilla at the end.
Lying at the northern most aspect of the Adriatic Sea is another notable white wine region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The majority of the vineyards are in the southern portion along the slopes of the Alps with the finest oriented to receive cooling ocean breezes. The Colutta Friulano Colli Orientali del Friuli 2007 ($15) is made with an indigenous varietal and is a good spot to begin exploring this region. Beginning with a faint nuttiness and floral aromas, it opens into full-bodied spicy pear and peach notes and a pleasant finish. Also full-bodied is the Poggiobello Sauvignon Colli Orientali del Friuli 2007 ($18) that is more earthy with lemon, minerals and guava flavors and a long vibrant ending.
From Tuscany, try the peach scented Antinori Guado al Tasso Vermentino Bolgheri 2008 ($20), with apple, orange and grapefruit flavors or the Colle Massari Melaccia Vermentino Toscana 2007 ($20), a medium-bodied effort with a backbone of lovely citrus acidity supporting apple, anise and mineral notes.