The term white wine is something of a misnomer. After all, no wine is actually a solid white in colour. In fact the term generally refers to the lighter varieties of wine that are usually tinted yellow. Created using the pulp of non-coloured grapes, white wines generally serve as an aperitif, often being drunk with dessert or as a light refreshment between meals. This places it on different ground to the often celebrated red varieties, which is further demonstrated by the fact that whites will often be fruitier to the taste and generally lighter when it comes to consumption.
White wine has a storied history, having existed in practically every wine-drinking civilisation in one form or another for the past 2500 years. Italy is no different and some of the greatest varieties of the drink have been created in the country. Celebrated by many over the ages, including famed writers and poets, white wine is the perfect accompaniment for many occasions so we thought we would provide a small list of some of the best vintages to give you an idea of exactly what you will be getting with your purchase.
Verdicchio can trace its roots all the way back to the 14th century, as documents from the period note that the wine was made available in the Marche region during that time. Over time it was discovered that the grape used to create the wine was susceptible to changes in climate and yields of variable quality, however this has not stopped it from becoming one of the most popular whites in the world, with the best vintages often making list of high quality wines. In fact, the grape is now the 15th most planted in the entire world, which surprisingly puts it ahead of more well-known varieties of white, such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Over time the grape has spread beyond the Marche region where its made its name and today many of the best quality vintages are actually created in Verdicchio di Matelica and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. Interestingly enough, the grape used to make the wine is also susceptible to what is called ‘clonal mutation’, meaning that there are now various sub-varieties of the grape in production. This in turn ensures that there is plenty of variety in any selection of Verdicchio, making it even more interesting to sample as many as possible to determine which your favourites are.
Overall Rating – 9/10
Vermentino is another light-skinned grape which is generally grown in Sardinia and, in some cases in Corsica. As such it has fast become a popular ingredient in Italian white wines and is quickly spreading to other parts of the country as its popularity continues to grow.
Primarily used to create the DOCG regulated Vermentino di Gallura the grape, similarly to the previously mentioned Verdicchio, is believed to have been first cultivated in the fourteenth century, with its origins having been traced back to Gallura. Back then it was often referred to as Arratelau and has been used to create a number of sparkling and sweet white wines over the years.
Today it is still an extremely popular grape and is used in a wide variety of wines of different varieties. Interestingly, the grape itself has recently undergone DNA typing to better determine its origin and has been found to be identical to the Pigato that is common in Liguria.
Overall Rating – 9/10
The famed Grechetto, which is often referred to as the Grechetto Bianco, can actually trace its origins back to Greece but has become one of the most popular wine grapes in Italy. It is particularly favoured in the Umbria region, where it is in the primary ingredient in the wonderful Orvieto.
As the Grechetto is generally considered to be a blending grape, it is extremely rare to find varieties of Orvieto that don’t feature another form of grape, with popular combinations including Trebbiano and Verdello.
Interestingly enough, the Orvieto wine is much more closely associated with a particular region that many other varieties. The drink is almost exclusively produced in the historic town of the same name and makes up a large part of the town’s economy. In fact the town is quite well regarded for the quality of its cuisine and many restaurants line its streets, making it the perfect place to truly experience this gorgeous white wine.
This extremely interesting wine can trace its roots back to the village of Tramin, which was actually a German-speaking province located in the north of Italy back then the wine was first made. This has led to the grape used in the wine being named as the Gewürztraminer and many people make the mistake of associating it with solely with Germeny when its roots are as much Italian as they are German.
The wine itself can actually be traced all the way back to 1000, with widespread production of its original form lasting all the way through to the sixteenth century. From there the history of the wine becomes much more convoluted and the grape used to create it has since become rather widespread, finding a home in Germany, France and the United States amongst others.
Regardless, the Traminer Aromatico is a particularly fine example of an Italian white wine and is certainly worth sampling.
Overall Rating – 9/10
Of course there are plenty of other varieties of white wine that are native to Italy that have not been covered by this list. In fact some may argue that some of the most famous varieties, such as Prosecco, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, have not received their due. While that may be the case we thought it would be best to start out by highlighting a few wines that are exceptionally high in quality but perhaps don’t receive the recognition that they deserve outside of Italy. Needless to say, there are plenty of other white wines that the connoisseur will wish to sample, but we think this list makes a good starting point for anybody who is looking to expand beyond the norm.