Italy is most famous for its red wines — Chianti, Barolo, amarone, valpolicella, it goes on. But it also produces some pleasing white wines that are less-known but very much worth trying. They’re often lean and crisp, with lots of fruit flavors and hints of minerals.
Italian whites go well with shellfish, finfish, light chicken and turkey dishes, risottos and white-sauced pastas, light meat salads and lots more.
Here are some examples:
Vermentino: Grown in several Italian regions but until recently only in tiny quantities, this light-skinned white grape was hardly known until recently. Now it’s arriving on the radar of wine fans both in Italy and America. It’s light, crisp and dry, in the tradition of pinot grigio. Good vermentinos are coming from newly booming Maremma, the rugged coastal area of south Tuscany that borders the Mediterranean.
Verdicchio: Native to Italy’s Marche Region south of San Marino on the Adriatic Sea, this white grape was once considered bland and dull. But modern winemaking techniques have rescued it, and it’s now turning out light, crisp, dry wines with flavors of green apples and limes.
Chardonnay sparkling wine: In the Lombardy region around Milan, Franciacorta is making sparkling wines in the French champagne method and is considered a step up from Italy’s most popular bubbly, prosecco.
Moscato d’Asti: South of Turin, south of the well-known city of Asti, the Vieti wine estate makes the equally well-known sweet sparkling wine called Moscato d’Asti. The sweetness comes from stopping the fermentation before all the sugar is turned into alcohol, resulting in a wine with only 5.5 percent alcohol instead of wine’s usual 12-13 percent. It’s a popular aperitif and goes well with fruit tarts and other lightly sweet desserts.
Sauvignon blanc: Often simply called “sauvignon” in Italy, it makes a crisp and fruity wine at the Russiz Superiore winery in northeast Italy’s cool Friuli region.
Pinot grigio: Probably Italy’s best-known wine, it turns out lean, light and crisp in the cool climate of the Collio wine region near Venice, where it’s considered indigenous.
Soave: In the cool Veneto region around Venice, the hamlet of Soave gives its name to a light, crisp wine from the lemony garganega grape. It’s one of Italy’s most popular white wines. It goes well with fish and rice dishes.
▪ 2014 Aia Vecchia Vermentino IGT Maremma, Tuscany (95 percent vermentino, 5 percent viognier): yellow-green hue, aromas and flavors limes and lime blossoms, hint of herbs, powerful fruit; $12.
▪ 2013 “Macrina” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore, DOC Marche, by Garofoli (100 percent verdicchio): light and lively and dry, with aromas and flavors of ripe pears; $14.
▪ 2009 Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Satèn sparkling wine (100 percent chardonnay): myriad lively bubbles, dry and crisp, with yeasty aromas and flavors of lemons, pears and spice; $38.
▪ 2012 “Podium” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC Marche, by Garofoli (100 percent verdicchio): crisp and dry, with intense aromas and flavors of yellow apples and lemons; $25.
▪ 2014 Vietti Moscato d’Asti “Cascinetta” DOCG (100 percent moscato d’Asti): soft bubbles, lightly sweet, with aromas and flavors of ripe apricots and peaches; $15.
▪ 2013 Russiz Superior Sauvignon, DOC Collio (100 percent sauvignon blanc): light hint of oak, aromas and flavors of grapefruit and herbs, smooth and rich; $28.
▪ 2013 Marco Felluga Pinot Grigio “Mongris,” DOC Collio (100 percent pinot grigio): powerful floral aromas, flavors of ripe green apples and pears, full body; $18.
▪ 2013 Azienda Agricola Inama Soave “Vigneti di Foscarino” DOC (100 percent garganega): powerful floral aromas, flavors of ripe peaches and minerals, nut-tinged finish; $24.