Beautiful Bianco!

For many people Italian wine means red wine: Barolo, Brunello and Amarone being the greatest hits, along with the more ubiquitous table wine, Chianti. Italian white wine is often covered off by Pinot Grigio or Prosecco, both generally well-priced and easy-drinking and often uninteresting. While I profess to be colour-blind when it comes to wine - as long as it is good wine I like all colours - I have to admit that I often find Italian white wines more interesting than reds.

Too often what we find at the LCBO (Ontario's liquor board & primary wine vendor) is made for the commercial market: the crisp, lean styles of Pinot Grigio that are cheap enough for almost any restaurant wine list or backyard party, but that leave us with the impression that Italian white wine is bland and without character. That impression couldn't be further from the truth and to prove it, here is a short list of some of my favourites:

  • Arneis from Piemonte - dry and crisp with peach, floral and almond notes.
  • Gavi from Piemonte - made from the Cortese grape, lots of fresh lemon and crisp apple often grounded by earthy notes.
  • Soave Classico from Veneto - made from the Garganega grape, the wine has peach and almond notes, often quite textured and sometimes with a bitter almond finish.
  • Verdicchio and Pecorino from Le Marche - the first full of ripe peach, often with a salty finish; the second stone fruit, floral and herbs (both can come in unoaked and oaked styles that bring out very different characteristics).
  • Fiano from Campania - can be richly textured with honeydew melon, toasted nuts and herbaceous notes.
  • Vermentino from Sardegna - from the seaside, crisp, mineral-driven and saline.
  • Etna Bianco - sometimes 100% Carricante but often a blend of Carricante, Catarratto, Grecanico, Inzolia and Minnella, these wines are fresh and savoury with high acidity, minerality and salty notes. (I will be reviewing an Etna Bianco as soon as I get my next LCBO delivery!)
  • Franciacorta from Lombardia - Italy's best sparkling! A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco made in the champagne method; drier and more complex than Prosecco and usually less expensive than Champagne.

This is just a handful of the many different white wines Italy produces. There are actually hundreds of indigenous grapes in Italy, most of which we sadly never encounter in the Ontario market. These wines reflect the terroir of their geography - coastal, volcanic, high altitude etc. - as well as being great partners for the regional cuisine. The best examples are complex, concentrated and delicious.

Here are two wines I enjoyed last week:

La Fortezza Fiano 2018

$14.95  |   VINTAGES#:  13373

I was first introduced to the Sannio region of Italy (in Campania, northeast of Naples) at a seminar last year. It is a region that has not been well known for wine outside of Italy and that only received official DOC status (under the Italian wine regulation system) in 1997. It is, however, a region producing distinctive and high-quality wines from Fiano, Greco and Falanghina (white) and Aglianco (red) grapes. I bought this wine on a whim, knowing the grape and not the producer, and I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and character at this reasonable price.

Pine resin, honey, citrus, roasted hazelnut on the nose. The palate is savoury, herbaceous and lemony. There is nice weight with a bit of an oily mouthfeel, and the wine has presence and good concentration. Pair with lemon-rosemary roasted chicken or with a weighty white fish like halibut or sea bass in a herb butter sauce.


Pieropan Soave Classico 2018

$19.95  |   VINTAGES#:  946848

Pieropan has been making wine in the Soave region for generations and its long history is reflected in its high-quality wines. I tried a higher-level Pieropan Soave a couple of years ago on a recommendation and I gulped as I paid the $35+ for the bottle. It was worth the money - rich, complex, textured and delicious - and so you can imagine my delight in finding a wine from this producer at a much more reasonable price!

A blend of 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave, the wine opens with marzipan, bread dough, lemon and mineral on the nose. There is a lovely creamy texture on the palate, which tastes of lemon rind, green apple and a slight bitter almond finish. Part of what makes this wine interesting for me is the texture, which comes from aging on the fine lees (the spent yeast cells after they have finished their job of alcoholic fermentation) for a period of time before bottling. Lees aging gives wines that doughy nose and creamy mouthfeel, which adds to the complexity of a wine by giving it a dimension beyond just flavour. This wine will be a great aperitif as the zingy acidity will open up your palate for dinner, or served with lighter white fish or quiche with asparagus or other spring vegetables.


Until next time, stay safe and healthy and enjoy your wine.