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.
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.