A Journey Through (Some!) Italian White Wines, One Sip At A Time

Posted by on February 25th, 2024

Embarking on a journey through the heart of Italy, I found myself captivated not only by the rich history and culture but also by the diverse and exciting world of enotecas, osterias and bacari (wine bars, small family-run restaurants and taverns) and Italian wines. Working with French and Spanish wine in the past, ignited in me a passion for wine, where it comes from, and what makes each varietal’s flavors unique. That said, I have never known much about Italian wines aside from the well-loved classic reds.

In the vast tapestry of Italian wines, red varietals often take center stage, captivating the senses with their bold flavors and rich histories. Yet, in the shadow of these celebrated reds, a hidden world of exquisite white wines awaits discovery. During my journey through the enchanting cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice this year, I was curious to uncover the lesser-known treasures that might not enjoy the same limelight, especially in the United States, as their counterparts.

As many of our travelers flock to Italy in the summertime, I thought it would be excellent to dive into the refreshing and vibrant realm of Italian white wines—the perfect complement to the warm Mediterranean climate, and a unique window into the country’s diverse viticulture traditions. Read on to venture beyond the well-trodden path and enjoy a special list of regional Italian white wines, their respective tasting notes, and my personal favorite places where to try some of these on your next trip to Italy!

Lazio, Abruzzo, and Umbria: Unveiling the Elegance of Orvieto, Pecorino, and Grechetto

In the picturesque landscapes surrounding Rome, I was introduced to three exceptional white wines that left a lasting impression.

Grechetto (Umbria/Lazio)
Tasting Notes: Displaying extreme tartness, Grechetto offered green apple and citrus notes on the nose. Its acidity and dryness were pronounced, with a touch of floral undertones. Often contributing to Orvieto blends, Grechetto added complexity and depth to the regional wines. Grechetto is a renowned accompaniment to the Roman carbonara pasta dish.

Orvieto (Umbria/Lazio)
Tasting Notes: The dry, zesty Orvieto presented a delightful medley of almonds, white peach, and green apple. With a floral and balanced character, its bright acidity and mineral undertones were complemented by a subtle hint of wet straw on the nose. Orvieto usually has some Grechetto grapes within its blend.

Pecorino (Abruzzo)
Tasting Notes: Pecorino, with its notes of wet straw and white peach, delivered a minerally and tart experience. The dryness and slightly elevated acidity hinted at the high alcohol content derived from sugar, creating a well-rounded and intriguing profile.

A few other whites of interest made it on my list as well: Falanghina, Falerno (wine of the ancient Romans), Lacryma Christi, and Greco di Tufo. Though I didn’t have the opportunity to taste these during my visit, they remain on my list for future exploration!

Favorite enoteca in Rome: Enoteca Domus Vini
Near Piazza della Repubblica. Super friendly and knowledgeable owner. Great wine and snack options.

Tuscany and Liguria: Vernaccia, Vermentino, and the Captivating Scalabrone

As I continued my journey through Florence, I discovered the diversity of Vernaccia, Vermentino, and the unique Scalabrone rosé from Tuscany and Liguria.

Vermentino (Liguria/Tuscan Seaside)
Tasting Notes: This lovely wine offered a salty and tart experience. The minerality from sand and clay where the grapes are grown contributed to its character and beautifully played off the flavors of white stone fruit and green apple. This wine is often paired with pesto pasta dishes – enjoy!

Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Tuscany)
Tasting Notes: This dry white grape from Tuscany exhibited a delightful array of flavors, including strawberry, almond, peach, pineapple, and citrus. Its dryness and acidic finish made it a standout choice among Tuscan whites.

Scalabrone (Tuscany- Rosé) – I know this is a Rosé but I had to sneak it on here!
Tasting Notes:
A blend of Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, Scalabrone presented a delightful rosé experience. With red fruit, spiciness, and a dry finish, it showcased the versatility of grapes in southern Tuscany.

Favorite wine-centric restaurant in Florence: Konnubio
Excellent traditional regional dishes with a twist and an amazing wine menu.

Veneto and Friuli: Exploring Soave, Ribola, Malvasia, Garganega, and Trebbiano

My journey concluded in Verona and Venice (both in the Veneto region), where I encountered a diverse selection of white wines, each with its own distinct personality.

Soave (Veneto)
Tasting Notes: Made from the Garganica grape, Soave displayed a dry, tart profile with notes of green apple and minerality. Its light and refreshing character would make it a perfect companion for warm evenings and is perfect to pair with anchovy or baccala (salted cod) cichetti (classic Venetian tapas) – thank me later!

Ribola (Friuli)
Tasting Notes: Hailing from the Italian-Slovenian border, Ribola was a complex and tart white wine that almost looked like an orange wine. With stone fruit notes and a slightly funky (in a good way!) undertone, it showcased the unique terroir of the region.

Malvasia (Veneto)
Tasting Notes: While typically a sweet grape, Malvasia demonstrated its versatility with honey, floral, and peach notes. Its intriguing body and dry profile added a layer of sophistication to the tasting experience.

Garganega (Veneto)
Tasting Notes: Garganega offered a dry, salty character with peach notes. Its velvety texture and simultaneous tartness created a dynamic and memorable wine.

Trebbiano (Veneto)
Tasting Notes: With citrus and green apple flavors, Trebbiano presented a dry and tart profile. Its crispness made it a delightful choice for those seeking something light and refreshing.

Favorite osteria/bacaro in Venice: Mezzopeino Bacaro Venezia
Charming local Bacaro (wine bar) with excellent selection of Venetian style cichetti (tapas) and of course, a wonderful, curated selection of delicious and interesting local wines. Lovely and knowledgeable staff.

My journey through Rome, Florence, and Venice was not only a visual and cultural feast but also a gastronomic delight as I explored the diverse world of Italian white wines. From the dry elegance of Orvieto to the salty notes of Vermentino and the complex character of Ribola, each region offered a unique expression of Italy’s winemaking heritage. As I departed with a newfound appreciation for Italian whites, my list of must-try wines continues to grow, I’m sure promising future adventures in the world of Italian viticulture. Cheers!


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