Italy, most often depicted for its exceptional red wines from the likes of Chianti and Valpolicella, also produces outstanding white wine throughout this highly diverse country. While Pinot Grigio is still the trendy kid in the class, there is an array of other white Italian grapes grown from the north in Alto Adige to the south in Sicily that exude exemplary finesse and sophistication.
Italy has hundreds of different grape varieties; it is unfortunate that only a few end up on the shores of Ireland. The wines that do arrive are, thankfully, usually delightful.
Take the grape Verdicchio, for example, grown notably in the Marche region in eastern Italy. This crisp white is noted for its high acidity and citrus profile and tends to be dry with a mineral flavour and sea air freshness. A perfect stand-in for Pinot Grigio, if that’s your go-to tipple. A real delight when paired with dishes such as pesto-based pasta, or scallops and tuna, the diversity and freshness of this wine comes through when pairing with many Italian and fish inspired meals. A favourite of mine is from Le Caveau (lecaveau.ie), produced by Colle Stefano, available for only €16.
Further north in the Veneto region, is Soave. The default wine for many in the 1970s and 80s, it has now seen a renaissance of sorts among millennials. Produced with the indigenous Garganega grape, this wine is dry, crisp and unoaked, with a light-medium body. Subdued notes of apple, pear, and peach sing in this food-friendly wine.
Garganega is also commonly blended with another iconic Italian grape, Trebbiano, to offer balance and freshness in the Soave wines. Pieropan, a leading producer of this classic aperitivo, is available from thecorkscrew.ie for a very affordable €20.95.
Aside from the ever-prominent Pinot Grigio, the wines from the area of Gavi take center stage in Piedmont, the North of Italy. Gavi wines are produced primarily with the Cortese grape, with the resulting style being a medium bodied, dry wine. Typically crisp and unoaked, the flavour profile of these wines feature honey, apples and minerals prominently – a real delight.
Gavi wines are fabulous with simple dishes, such as spaghetti carbonara, and shellfish. A beautiful example of this wine is produced by La Battistina for €12.95, available from O’Brien’s stores nationwide.
Philip Dunne is Head Sommelier at Ashford Castle, Cong. Trained by the Court of Master Sommeliers, he is part of the team voted the Best Wine Experience in Ireland 2016 at the Restaurant Association Awards in Ireland.