Way more than Pinot Grigio.
The onset of summer brings festive Italian wines for every table, raft, or backpack. While Pinot Grigio is the most recognizable white wine, many other options exist for Italian summer sippers. After all, Italy is the world’s largest wine producer, with an astonishing 900,000 registered vineyards and over 1,000 documented grape varieties.
One of the best-kept secrets from the Lombardy region is “Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvee Brut Sparkling Wine.” This classic method champenoise bubbly is equal in quality to any French prestige champagne at a fraction of the price. The traditional champagne grapes—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc—are used to create an elegant bouquet of bread dough, apples, pears, and apricots with subtle notes of vanilla and peach jam. This wine has a creamy, silky texture and a long, pure finish.
Moving into the Piedmont region there is a bold, fresh white wine named Arneis, which means “rascal” in the local dialect. “Alasia Arneis” is dry and medium-bodied with light pear and apricot flavors, and can be found at Ferraro’s as a monthly special throughout the summer season.
“Vernaccia di San Gimignano” is a refreshing white wine grown in the hills of Tuscany. Teruzzi and Puthod’s “Terre Di Tufi” may be the best-known white in Italy. A blend of Vernaccia (80%), Chardonnay, Malvasia, and Vermintino, this wine’s quince, honeysuckle, sesame, and sweet spice flavors are wrapped in smoke. Another good value from this region is “Panizzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano.” Try this beauty with a multi-layered dish like pan-seared scallops coated in a slightly sweet limoncello sauce poured over fresh pasta.
Any discussion of Italian white wine should include wines from the Tre Venizie. “Pieropan’s Soave Classico” is always reliable with its fleshy texture, firm minerality, and most notably, uplifted aromas of the Garganega grape. Be ready for hints of citrus fruit and almonds on the palate. For those Pinot lovers, the “Bressan” is the most intense and elegant Pinot Grigio you will ever taste.
Another diamond in the rough is the “Bucci Verdicchio” from the Marche region. This white emphasizes elegance and bright aromatics and holds onto its freshness for many years in the bottle. It’s medium-bodied with good balance and a fruity, grapey finish.
Finally, a rising star red wine from the island of Sardinia: Cantina Santadi’s “Carignano del Sulcis,” also known as Grotta Rossa. This is a perennial favorite of wine critics and brings to mind the inky wines of Priorato in Spain. Made from the Carignano grape, this wine is stainless-steel-aged and delivers ripe wild berry and soft pepper spice on the nose and the palate.
Try out some of these Italian wines and enjoy your summer all the more.
Bud Holtgreve is the wine rep for Bronken’s Distributing in Bozeman.