Italy’s 10 leading fine white wines

7th February, 2013 by Rupert Millar

The sheer scale of Italy’s wine landscape, its extraordinary array of native grape varieties and the head scratching confusion caused by eerily similar producer names, DOC names and yet more grape names all combine to bog down and frustrate newcomers.

SŸudtirol

Alto Adige; photo credit: Udo Bernhart

This embarrassment of riches is bad enough for those seeking to determine which of Italy’s reds merits a place in the pantheon of “most expensive” or “most investable” etc.

However, at least with recent market moves and the growing interest in Italy as an alternative to the escalating prices of the Bordeaux scene, the red wines are falling into some semblance of order; led of course by the Super Tuscans.

For the whites though no such luxury exists. It is fairly true to say that, beyond cheap Pinot Grigio, Italy isn’t renowned for its white wines.

“First off,” says Berry Bros’ Italian buyer, David Berry Green, “Italy for me is the land of reds! Tell me the last time you saw a white Ferrari (except possibly in France…famous for whites!)?”

Nonetheless, both he and other merchants prompted for suggestions on the best white producers did not take long to reel off names spanning the entirety of the peninsular from Sicily and then up through Puglia and Campania via Le Marche and Tuscany to Piedmont and Alto Adige.

The majority of wines suggested were native Italian grapes, Greco di Tufo, Timorasso, Garganega, Buriano and Catarratto among others.

However, it was surprising, with a little digging, just how many of the top rated and lauded Italian whites use Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Then again, perhaps because of their association with France and to an extent Germany, it is easy to forget that these grape varieties have long been part of Italy’s winemaking heritage.

Nice as it would be to list only native Italian grapes, the wines listed here are those who may conceivably be considered market leaders.

As such, they are arranged by their average price per bottle on wine-searcher.com

For more on Italian white wines, see the February edition of the drinks business.

10 Responses to “Italy’s 10 leading fine white wines”

  1. Raffaele Santoro says:

    bla bla bla.

  2. Vino in Love says:

    That list seems a little bit odd to me. Don’t forget about Verdicchio (some of the highest rated Italian white wines are produced with Verdicchio) , Cortese (Cortese is the grape for the world-famous Gavi) and Falanghina.
    Timorasso and Buriano are not really that common..

  3. James says:

    Won’t get that 3 minutes back. What a terrible and uninformative piece.

  4. Mila Dorosh says:

    Gaja’s Cabernet is “Darmagi!” – Giovanni Gaja’s comment on planting the vineyards with cab.

  5. Riccardo Margheri says:

    Of course, I do not pretend to know everything, but tasting hundreds of different Italian vine varietes during my work for the wine guides I collaborate with, I have never tasted a “Buriano”. If here it says that it is one of the main Italian whites, I should know about that… Nor I find any info on such topic on my books about autoctone varieties, nor on the web… If it really exist, and it is not a mistake of the article (many of its choices could be discussed anyway, as it always happens, as the SB and not the Ribolla for Gravner, or the Nova Domus and not the PG selection Vorberg for Terlano), may I get further infos please?
    Kind regards
    Riccardo Margheri

    • Rupert Millar says:

      Riccardo,
      The list is an attempt to highlight at least some of Italy’s leading fine white wines. It may perhaps have made more sense to just pick out producers that are particularly focused on white wines – but the point is to show the most expensive, which would generally imply some sort of appreciation in price and interested following of some description. Where a particular producer makes other wines (such as Terlano and Gravner’s other wines as you picked out), I have tried to make reference to them.

      Buriano is not a major variety, many Italian varieties are in no way ‘major’, the list of Italian grapes in the intro was just to show that of all the merchants I talked to, the suggestions they gave to join this list (which were extensive) encompassed every conceivable variety, big and small, that Italy has.

      I agree that the list is not perfect and open to discussion. Indeed, I hope it does provoke discussion as Italy produces some excellent white wines and I think they need greater exposure and appreciation. As you can see from the list many are incredibly well priced with regards to their quality.

      Rupert

  6. Riccardo Margheri says:

    Looks like Buriano was an ancient name used around XVI-XVII century to indicate some Tuscanian white variety. I am not able to find my Francesco Redi’s “Bacco in Toscana” copy in this moment, where the term is mentioned. But trust me, it is not used nowadays…

    • Roberto Bellini says:

      Buriano grape is used in Montecarlo area, close to Lucca. Fattoria Michi produce a 100% Buriano.
      Cheers

  7. Riccardo Margheri says:

    Believe me or not, Roberto, I see Your post only now, after more than one year (I hadn’t realised I would not have received an automatic alert about answers to my post!!). And when I made the obvious researches on the web before replying to tDB, You hadn’t published yet Your article about the Michi wines on the AIS site. Nor I have had the occasion to taste the Buriano in some Montecarlo event (maybe because the production is tiny?). Said that, and with all the respect for the Michi work, listing Buriano between the 10 Italian leading whites continues to be a little bit too much :-), IMHO of course. And if this come from the importers’ opinion, as explained in the kind reply to my post (thanks for the interest), I of course appreciate their effort to explore something brand new, but even I recommend not to stop…
    @Rupert: any effort to make evident that Italy produces great, enjoyable whites is great, so thank You!! 🙂
    Kind regards ad cheers
    Riccardo Margheri

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