While my husband was busy dousing himself in montepulciano and sangiovese, I was blissfully sipping my way through the northern end of the country on my own white wine tour. The grapes used to make Italian white wines are numerous. While it may seem like a challenge to keep them all straight, the broad assortment of white wines gives consumers the luxury of selecting wines that pair with a plethora of cuisines and taste preferences.
I was fortunate to get a little assistance from winemakers and winery representatives at the recent Vias Imports' portfolio tasting in New York City. Their enthusiasm and dedication to making wonderful white wines was contagious, and my tongue was soon transported to beautiful fattorias and hillside villas where long, leisurely lunches unfolded in my mind. Retail prices are approximate.
Abutting the Swiss border at the northern edge of Italy is the region of Trentino, where Torre di Luna excels in producing value-oriented wines. The cooler daytime temperatures provide an ideal climate for the 2011 Torre di Luna Sauvignon Blanc Delle Venezie IGT ($10). The straw-colored wine has an intensely aromatic bouquet filled with aromas of tropical fruit and citrus blossoms. The bright acidity accents the grapefruit and lemon/lime flavors and gives the wine a refreshing boost. The medium-bodied finish is crisp and light and just cries out for a plate of seafood risotto. QPR 7.5
Also located in Trentino is the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all'Adige, where the vineyards are dedicated to the education, experimentation and preservation of native varietals. The winery of San Michele is an extension of the research facility and focuses on the modern production of wines from indigenous grapes, like the 2011 San Michele Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC ($16). The nose has distinctive scents of peach and nectarine fruits and wet stone. The fruity-yet-dry mouthfeel supports notes of peach nectar, pear and citrus flavors. The bright finish displays a nice mineral undertone that allows this wine to stand on its own or to be enjoyed with roasted chicken. QPR 7.5
Immediately to the south of Trentino is the Veneto region, home to the Bisol family, where more than 21 generations have been involved with the historic winery located in the ODGC area of San Stefano di Valdobbiadene. From their 300-plus acres of vineyard comes the stunning white sparkling 2010 Brisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($18). The blend of glera, pinot bianco and verdiso comes from a single vineyard where the sub-soil is composed of marine sandstone, known as "crede." The terrain acts as a reservoir for the vines, pulling water away and giving it back as the fruit needs it. The elegant nose offers up honeysuckle and bright apple, while the medium-sized bubbles carry flavors of apple, pear and baked bread over the entire palate. Perfect for making bellinis (the famous sparkling cocktail with pureed peaches) or paired with sushi. QPR 8.5
In the northwest corner of Italy is the famous wine region of Piemonte, best known as the home of the red grape nebbiolo. But this is also where the Broglia family estate of La Meirana makes the delicious 2011 Broglia La Meirana Gavi di Gavi DOCG ($17) from 100 percent Cortese di Gavi grapes from a single vineyard. The wonderfully aromatic nose is filled with scents of wildflowers and ripe peaches. In the mouth, the wine feels richly textured as layers of ripe peaches, apricots and nectarines vie for attention on the tongue. The bold structure and substantial acidity make this wine a candidate for aging a few years, but if you must drink it today, try it with grilled branzino. QPR 9
QPR is a rating system that compares the quality a wine delivers relative to the price. A QPR of 10 is considered an excellent value.