Thirst for different wines quenched by summery Italian whites

Following a harsh winter made for booming red wines, people might want something wholly different from the toothsome and the tannic. A sputtering spring notwithstanding, the alfresco dining season is finally here in earnest. A good drinking partner is in order: one who can swat away the pests with ease (despite a marked slurring tendency); and a drinkable one that’s a good match for outdoor-themed cuisine.

The Chicago wine trade is alive with fresh, crisp whites that would pair with the onslaught of deliciously sultry weather. Although Italy’s brooding and luscious reds held sway during Snowmageddon and March Mud, it’s time to drink in the country’s enticing white offerings. They come from the mountainous north and torrid south – and it’s time for them to have their days in the sun (preferably, in an ice bucket).

Read the unabridged version on Enjoy spring white wines from Italy’s north and south – Chicago Budget Wine |

One region in Italy that produces distinctive white wines is Alto Adige – a far-northern, sub-Alpine region that borders Austria. (It was, in fact, part of Habsburg Austria before the First World War.) Pinot Grigio is the dominant varietal here. Yes, there are some brands and wineries that over-produce and over-hype Pinot Grigio. A morass of mediocrity has flooded the market with one-dimensional astringency. Wines like these are turn-offs to adventurous imbibers. But a closer look at Alto Adige reveals some lovely Pinot Grigio – and Pinot Bianco – from some of the region’s smaller producers.

Another Italian region of note is Campania. Located at the opposite end of the country, just northeast of Naples, Campania is in the heart of Italy’s sultry south. Lots of muscular red wine comes from here. But it’s also the home of “mineral-driven, steely white varietals that (thrive) in the volcanic soil,” says Michael Taylor, Wine Director at Chicago’s Italian Village. Falanghina and Greco di Tufo are just two these. Unlike Pinot Grigio, they continue to fight for general recognition.

The angling for shelf space by these geographically distinct producers might be motivated by different reasons. Their placement, however, yields a positively similar trait: value. The wines that follow are actually not the least expensive in their realm (some approach or exceed the $15 threshold). But, for the patio/rooftop season, the delightful change in weather should be paralleled by an altered state of wine.

Below are several options that complement the patio/alfresco experience:

San Michele Appiano Pinot Grigio 2009: A truly multi-dimensional white wine, this is not a single-gear Pinot Grigio that gets by solely on its brand-building prowess. The San Michele has a nice, honeysuckle aroma. Its flavors build from light pear, to pleasantly tart citrus, followed by cantaloupe. The finish is dry and clean. A delight with linguine and clams or mussels and frites, but it’s also very nice with herbed olives and cheese. $14.

Peter Zemmer Pinot Bianco 2010: Featuring a new label, note how the name and varietal show the confluence of Teutonic-Latin viticulture.  Fresh and vibrant with balanced acidity and aromas and flavors of apricot and lemon, this one pivots nicely from a quaffer to vinaigrette-dressed salads and crab dip on Melba toast. $15.

Vesevo Falanghina 2009: Floral and fruit-forward scents of white flowers and green apple, its flavors are light-to-medium bodied, featuring pear and honeydew. Great wine to have with grilled Mahi-Mahi or Swordfish, with a basil-caper butter. $15 at Convito Italiano.

Terradora Greco di Tufo 2009: A nice dry and earthy wine style; not as aromatic as Falanghina. Still, it has nice scents of apple, with flavors of stone fruit (peach and white cherry) and a lingering finish. Medium-bodied, even slightly rich, it’s more of a food white than a sipper. Try with grilled sea bass. $17.


About Thomas Caestecker

I have had the privilege to witness the wine industry through both the corporate and media lenses for several years. My conclusion: The value sector has the potential for real growth in the industry. Luxury wines are battered by the economy; inexpensive bulk wine is simply cheap. This blog's mission is to reveal competitively priced, under-the-radar wines.
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