5 Top Grapes Behind Italian White Wines
Incredibly, Italy is actually the birthplace of over 25 percent of the world’s fine wine grape varieties.
Let’s have a look at the grapes behind this historic, and inspirational country’s white wine.
1 – Cortese
Found in Italy’s northwestern Piedmont region, it has been grown in the Region since at least the 17th Century. Wines made from Cortese often have the sweet flavors of apples, honeydew melons, and peaches, and feature a refreshing acidity.
These wines are known to offer aromas of wet stones, grass, and white flowers.
For the best white wines made from Cortese grapes look for Gavi di Gavi, and Gavi di Tassarolo, like Gavi DOC “INDI” or Gavi DOCG Riserva “Vigna della Rovere Verde”, both from La Mesma.
2 - Arneis
Another grape from Piedmont, it is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero and in Langhe. It’s a traditional variety in the area, but in the 20th century producers begun focusing on 100% varietal Nebbiolo and this almost brought to the point where the variety was on the verge of extinction.
Luckily for us, the 1980s saw a renaissance in interest for Arneis and plantings began to increase. By 2006 there were around 640 hectares planted with this grape.
Arneis has the potential to produce highly perfumed wines with aromas of almonds, apricots, peaches, pears and hops.
One of the best Arneis from Langhe is the Langhe DOC Arneis from Barale Fratelli.
3 - Friulano
Let’s go tho the very North-Eastern edge of Italy to find Friulano. Mostly planted in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it has not to be confused with the Hungarian sweet wine Tokaji. To better distinguish the wines, the European Union established regulations prohibiting the use of names too closely associated and easily confused with Tokaji. Winemakers in the Friuli have elected to just refer to the grape as simply Friulano.
Friulano wine is typically full bodied with complex floral and herbal flavors, with moderate acidity, and a long finish.
The grape's most noted homes are the zones of Collio Goriziano, Friuli Grave, Friuli Isonzo, and Colli Orientali del Friuli, where the wonderful Collio DOC Friulano from La Castellada is made.
4 - Carricante
As a grape, Carricante spent the last thousand years adapting (and thriving) to one specific environment: the craggy, otherworldly hillsides of the Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily.
Carricante is often blended with other local white grapes, and in some cases barrel aged to help reduce its acidity. Expect citrusy and acidic “pop” along with notes of aniseed, broom, orange blossom, and – after aging – aromas of saline.
If you love a white wine with a citrusy acidic taste, try Etna Bianco DOC from Cantina Malopasso.
5 - Grillo
We are still in Sicily but on the opposite side of the island, near Trapani. Here, since the XIX Century, Grillo is widely used in winemaking and, in particular, for making Marsala.
Grillo produces crisp and savory wines with citrus blossom and peach nuances, and herbal sensations reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. Vineyards closest to the sea produce wines with pronounced saline notes.
If you want to taste a crisp and complex white wine, try Grillo DOC “Ariddu” from Valdibella.
Image credits: Andrés Gomez