Italy is justifiably renowned for its red wines: big bold Barolos, Chianti, Amarone, Barbaresco, Sangiovese and the like. But don’t overlook the white wines of Italy. There are many great ones, and high-quality whites from Italy can be pretty economical, especially compared to German and French counterparts.
One of Italy’s most interesting winemakers is Mariano Buglioni, a guy who’s positively passionate about making wine. His L’Intruso ($16.11) is made from 100 percent Garganega grapes, a varietal widely grown in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. Unfortunately, Garganega can be a high-yield grape, too often used to make thin, uninteresting wines. By contrast, Buglioni L’Intruso has tangy acidity, making it a good wine for pairing with foods. It’s brimming with tropical-fruit flavors and aromas—pineapple, mango and kiwi—along with white flower notes on the nose. It’s an unoaked wine, fermented in stainless steel.
The image of a woman’s face on bottles of AnthÃ¬lia Donnafugata ($14.99) from Sicily lures the curious wine drinker in. I really like this interesting blend of predominantly Sicilian grapes—Catarratto and Ansonica, along with Viognier and Chardonnay. It’s crisp, with tart green-apples flavors and silky texture, and it’s very nice with roast chicken.
One of the best-known wines of Central Italy is Orvieto Classico. This wine’s heritage dates back to medieval times—literally, a classic Italian white wine. La Carraia Orvieto Classico DOC ($10.99) is a good example, a 40/30/30 percent blend of Grechetto, Trebbiano and Malvasia, respectively. It’s a terrific bang-for-the-buck, a wine with intense floral aromas and roasted-almond notes on the tongue, and is a perfect partner for macadamia-crusted fish.
Another outstanding value is Bibi Graetz Casamatta Bianco ($12.99). Vermentino and Muscat grapes give Casamatta Bianco gorgeous perfumed aromas, and this unoaked white wine is brimming with deep fruit flavors, mostly melon and hints of orange. It’s a rich, yet delicate, wine. “Casamatta” means “crazy house,” and we’re crazy about this wine at our house.
A favorite Italian white varietal of mine is Gavi, considered Italy’s premier dry white wine. It’s named for the Italian town in Piedmont at the center of its production zone, and made with the Cortese grape. Gavi is typically a tart, light-bodied, acidic wine with fresh lime aromas that goes especially well with fish, seafood and vegetable dishes. A couple of examples of good Gavi include Araldica La Luciana Gavi ($12.99) and Principessa Gavi ($13.99). The former, Araldica, has typical Gavi lemon and lime aromas and flavors of green fruit and citrus. It’s a snappy, unoaked wine that is terrific with fish and seafood, and exceptional with basil pesto. Another favorite Gavi—available at many Italian restaurants—is Principessa. This wine is a bit less tart than the Araldica, with pretty pear flavors and hints of lime. It was the bomb with a simple Friday-night fish fry.
Winemaker Roberto Anselmi has long been known as an Italian trend-bucker, and his Anselmi San Vincenzo ($14.38)—made in Veneto’s Soave district—is no exception. The grapes (Garganega, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) are de-stemmed before undergoing cold maceration and a soft press. After fermentation, Anselmi matures in steel vats, with regular battonage. The result is a beautifully perfumed wine, with abundant honey, floral and apricot notes—a perennial favorite Italian white at our house.
Owned and operated by two sisters—Giovannella and Maria Giulia Fugazza—Castello di Luzzano winery’s wines were admired by Frank Sinatra, among others. I admire the fragrant aromatics and luscious, silky flavors of the aptly named Castello di Luzzano Tasto di Seta (“touch of silk), for $18.99.