Photo via Flickr by Eflon
Okay, not really. While I have much love for the aromatic, mineral and floral notes of the gray member of the Pinot family, there are so many other white options from Italy to explore. Pinot Grigio is made well in the northern part of Italy, in the Alto Adige, where it is lean, mineral and crisp. It is also made well in the Veneto, where is tends to be a little richer, fuller and aromatic. Both styles are nice and well-suited to pairing with lighter foods, or just sipping on a warm day.
However, there are almost eight hundred varieties grown in Italy (authorized and unauthorized), with many of those being white grapes. They range from herbal, briny, light and crisp, to rich, nutty and round. With names like Erbaluce, Pigato, Pignoletto, Arneis, Cortese, Grillo, Falanghina, Fiano, Vermentino, Verdicchio, Garganega and Pecorino, who could resist popping open a bottle and trying something new?
Some blame can be placed on the wine industry in this country. In the 1970s-world of US wine production, winemakers or marketers figured that California wine would be more fancy if it had European names on the bottle (or jug, to be more precise.) So they used names like Chablis, Burgundy and Soave. Now, there was no Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Garganega (the 3 grapes, respectively, that make up the real wines by those names) anywhere near those wines; but it helped them sell. Unfortunately, they weren’t very well made wines, and people came to associate Soave (et. al.) with generic, unappealing swill that their parents drank back in the day.
Therefore, while selling wine wholesale in the DC Metro area, I would constantly hear from wine buyers that if it is white and Italian, it better be Pinot Grigio. Nothing else white from Italy will sell so they just won’t bother buying it. But be adventurous! Get out there and demand a nice Soave, Gavi or Pigato from your local wine merchant. If you ask for it, they will put it on the shelf. Then everyone will be able to enjoy these fun, versatile and inexpensive Italian treats!
Here are three of my favorite Italian white wines:
What are some of your favorites?
Timothy Clune is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommelier and has an Advanced Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. He is the AGM/Beverage Director at Ovvio Osteria in Merrifield, and he teaches classes and hosts tastings as his alter ego, The Wandering Somm. You can follow Tim on Facebook and on Twitter via @wanderingsomm.