Italy’s 10 leading fine white wines

7th February, 2013 by Rupert Millar

1. Gaja, Gaia & Rey Chardonnay Langhe

Gaja copyGrape variety: Chardonnay

Region: Piedmont

Classification: Langhe DOC

Average price per bottle: £117

Angelo Gaja, revered for his Barolos, has gone on record before as saying that Italy’s wine future would owe much to white wine.

This is largely disputed – viz Berry Green at the beginning of this piece – but there is no doubt that Gaja is out to raise the profile of Italian whites and is prepared to give outside varieties a chance among the plethora of native Italian ones.

The Chardonnay was planted in 1979 and was, yet another, project of which his father disapproved, the first being the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in the subsequently named Darmargi (“What a shame”) vineyard that had traditionally been reserved for Nebbiolo.

Gaja argued at the time that he wanted to make a white wine but the local variety, Arneis, wasn’t allowed in the Langhe DOC.

Chardonnay was so he planted it – still against his father’s advice that all Italian wine should be made with native grapes.

Then again he had also said that Italian wine should all be red, so that particular caveat had already been disregarded.

The vineyard and wine, is named after Gaja’s daughter, Gaia, and grandmother.

Robinson praised the 1994 (17 points) when she tasted it in 2009, which, while not as complex as white Burgundy after 15 years, was considerably fresher.

Galloni meanwhile has called various vintages, “refined” (2006 – 92 points), “blockbuster” (1990 – 93 points) and “Meursault-like” (2001 – 91 points).

It’s average price is in direct correlation to the family’s well-founded viticultural prestige.

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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