While it could be argued that Italy is perhaps best known for the quality of its red wines, rather than its whites, this does something of a disservice to the many great manufacturers who specialize in creating these wonderful drinks, whose purpose is to refresh and reinvigorate.
Throughout the years, there are a number of white wine grapes that have become famous and widely-used throughout the country. All of these have ended up being used in a plethora of white wines throughout Italy, with many also being vital to the creation of some other wines thanks to high acidity levels or other factors.
What is certain is that all of the white wine grapes below play an important part in the Italian wine industry, which would likely not be the same if these grapes were not a big part of its make-up.
You cannot start a discussion about Italian white wine grapes without opening it with Trebbiano, which is perhaps the most famous white wine grape in the world and certainly amongst the widest used in Italy.
The Trebbiano family of grapes currently accounts for around a third of all of the white wine production in Italy, demonstrating just how important the grape has become to the culture. So far, the grape is mentioned in more than 80 of Italy’s DOCs, again showing that it can be a powerful white wine grape in its own right, in addition to being vital for the creation of many other types if wine.
Coming back to the wines that are made using primarily this grape, there are seven DOCs that make heavy use of it, including all of the following:
- Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
- Trebbiano di Aprilia
- Trebbiano di Arborea
- Trebbiano di Capriano del Colle
- Trebbiano di Romagna
- Trebbiano Val Trebbia dei Colli Piacentini
- Trebbiano di Soave
Interestingly, wine is not the only area where Trebbiano has proven useful, as the grape is also used to create Balsamic Vinegar. This is because the grape has a tendency to age very quickly, which means that those who want to experience its delights need to make sure they buy younger wines before they age beyond any semblance of good taste.
Also known as Pinot Gris in France, Pinot Grigio actually did not originate in Italy. However, despite its French origins it has quickly become one of the most important white wine grape varieties in the country, despite having only been present in Italy for a little over a century at this point.
The grape began achieving real popularity in the 1970s, when production was increased enormously and many winemakers began incorporating it into their compositions. Wines made using predominantly this grape have also become very popular internationally, and it is not rare at all to find bottles of Pinot Grigio alongside Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in bars through the United Kingdom and other international territories.
The wine has also become quite popular in Italy thanks to its refreshing taste, which is why production has ramped up so considerably since the 1970s. The grape is primarily used to create light-bodied and high-acid wines, though some have started to experiment and create more interesting wines with it over the years.
Vernaccia is something of a more confusing example as there are actually two types of white wine grape that carry the name. The most famous is likely the version that is grown primarily in Tuscany, however there is also a Sardinian Vernaccia that has been used to make some wonderful wines. Adding to the confusion is the red Vernaccia variety, which is predominantly grown in Marche.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Tuscan variety of the grape is the finer of the two and is typically used to make light wines with high acidity, much like in the case of Pinot Grigio. However, that’s not to say that the Sardinian variety does not have its charms and those who are looking to explore Italian white wines in more detail would do well to see out both so that they can get the best possible experience. The Tuscan version of the grape is also known to age fairly well, which has led to it being used in a number of other wines as well.
Verdicchio is primarily grown in the Marche region, which is near the Adriatic coast, and many people look to it as something of a revelation in Italian white wine grapes. It is not difficult to find wine lovers who are quick to promote the virtues of a good Verdicchio over those of a wine made using Trebbiano grapes, despite the latter being much more widely-used.
The grape contains a little more complexity than many of the others on this list, often being used to craft wines with a medium body while still maintaining the high acidity that people have come to associate with Italian white wines. Furthermore, the aromas of lemon and the sea air that you will experience while drinking offer the grape something of a unique flavour that is difficult to find anywhere else.
Formerly known as Tocai Friulano, this is the most widely-planted white wine grape in the Friuli region and many are quick to draw comparisons between it and Pinot Grigio, despite Tocai Friulano receiving far less attention that its more recognizable peer. They are typically used to make medium-bodied wines that again have the crisp acidity that most have come to expect from Italian white wines. However, many contend that the quality of the grape makes the resulting wines more interesting and flavoursome than those produced by the other varieties on this list.
Interestingly, some experts believed the grape is actually a version of Sauvignon Vert, which is also classed as Sauvignon Blanc in regions such as Chile, long before the grape’s name change was forced through by the European Union. As such, the grape has been known as Sauvignon Vert as of 2007, though the quality that had come to be associated with Tocia Friulano is most definitely still present.