Italian Whites Are More Than Just Pinot Grigio
We're back to Italy. My article a couple of months ago featured Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, an Italian red wine from the southern Abruzzo region. We're going to visit the Piedmont region (which means "at the foot of the mountains") then travel back down to Marche (which is the region right above Abruzzo). White wines are in greater demand when the weather is warm, so I wanted to highlight a couple of Italian whites that are very different wines. The American consumer seems to have settled on two fundamental profiles for their white wines: big, oaky and a bit sweet (Chardonnay) or very clean, crisp and juicy (Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio). Gavi and Verdicchio don't fit those profiles; they have notable earthiness with an underpinning of minerals. They are dry and they taste like grapes, not like wood -- but the tastes of Gavi and Verdicchio are different. Gavi is generally livelier, brighter and more aromatic and enjoyed on its own as a sipping wine, whereas Verdicchio is more intense, complex, interesting and very food friendly.
In Piedmont, red wine has always been a religion; white wine something of an afterthought. But there are some notable white wines being produced -- particularly Gavi. Gavi is made from Cortese, a grape native to Piedmont. The wine is bone-dry and crisp, with citrus and mineral notes. The area's proximity to the Ligurian coast, the Italian Riviera, has made Gavi a natural partner for seafood.
Verdicchio from Marche is the most famous white in the region -- sold in green amphora type bottles. It is fresh and acidic, grassy but full bodied with pear, sour apple and herbs. There is an intensity, focus, purity and sense of place. It is full but not heavy with a touch of white pepper and some peach. The wines have good fruit, smells and tastes of minerals and then something extra -- a little bit of nuttiness, especially on the finish, and a tiny bit of bitterness that makes one take note of each sip.
I encourage you to step outside the box -- the box of ordinary white wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc. You will be impressed with the gold from Italy's hills.
Certified Wine Professional
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