Italian whites make a big splash

few weeks ago I wrote about Spanish white wines. Today, we’re jetting off to another southern European country that, though better known for its reds, has also made great strides with its white wines — Italy.

Let’s face it. When people think of white wine from Italy two words often come to mind — pinot grigio. After chardonnay I don’t think any other grape has become so synonymous with white wine.

To the extent that pinot grigio speaks for all Italian white wines, it represents a minerally quality that is common.

However, with the hundreds of white wine grapes grown in Italy, it is just a fraction, albeit a noticeable one, of Italy’s white wine production.

Space and time constraints prevent me from writing about every white wine grape to be found in Italy so I’m going to pick three.

First, there is cortese, an indigenous grape to Piedmont. If you don’t recognize cortese you might have heard of Gavi, Piedmont’s eminent white wine DOCG. Cortese is the only grape permitted in Gavi, but it can be found outside of its perimeters in Piedmont and neighboring Lombardy.

Fiano, a grape found in Campania, has become very popular. Grown by the Romans, it fell out of favor for a good millennium or two but was resurrected in the 1990s and now accounts for some of the tastiest white wines made in Italy. Fiano can range in body and, like cortese, can handle oak but doesn’t need it for complexity. It often has pear and sometimes honey, waxlike aromas.

The last white grape, for our purposes, is Inzolia from Sicily. It is one of the grapes used in Marsala but also makes really interesting dry, white wine, often with a sherrylike, nutty quality.

We’re not even scratching the surface here, and I will write more about Italian white wines in future columns, but for now here are a few to seek out.

Tenuta La Lumia Inzolia

‘Cadetto,’ 2005 (Sicily)

This wine reminds me a bit of traditionally made white Rioja with a smoky, toasted-nut quality. Considering it did not see any wood treatment, it has incredible body and richness.

Suggested retail: $22

I Favati Fiano di Avellino, ‘Pietramara,’ 2004

(Campania)

The Favati family started making wine about a century ago for their own consumption. They are now sharing the juice, 5,000 cases worth, and their Fiano is one of the most delightful white wines I’ve had all summer — remember, we still have another two weeks of summer to go, officially speaking. Full-bodied with a hazelnut, vanilla aroma, it also seems like it might have some oak treatment, but the smoky minerality is purely from the terroir.

Suggested retail: $18

Icardi Cortese ‘l’aurora,’ 2006 (Piedmont)

Icardi is well-known for its red wines made from nebbiolo and barbera, and there is a part of me that wants to keep it that way and not share this secret with anyone else. Alas, that is not what enjoying wine is all about, so when I tell you that this is one of the best deals you’re going to find, believe it. Medium-bodied with peach, pink grapefruit, guava, nectarines and bright minerality, it is a cross between riesling, sauvignon blanc and viognier.

Suggested retail: $16

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The most dangerous behaviors by drivers include failing to yield right-of-way at crosswalks, unsafe speeding and failing to stop at red lights or stop signs. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite, which supplies water to San Francisco, is among the concerns of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is undergoing a change of leadership. <ins>(Courtesy SFPUC)</ins>
Changes at SFPUC spark concern, hope

Will agency’s new commissioner continue to support Big Ag?

A screenshot from SFPD body worn camera
New videos show police shooting man armed with knife, frying pan

Police say Antonio Estrada set fire to apartment building before shooting

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said he expected San Francisco to enter the purple tier within days.
Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner
SF still in the red but expects move into purple tier ‘some time soon’

Four more counties moved into highest COVID-19 risk category by state

Most Read