Italy is well-known for its wines and wineries. Red, white, and rose wines are produced as well as sparkling wines. In this article, we are going to focus on Italian white wines. They are fragrant, have light acidity, and some have a lower alcohol content than other white wines.
How is White Wine Produced?
White wines are made from grapes that usually have colorless, light green, or yellow skins. However, they can also be made from grapes that have red or purple skins. This is because the skins are removed and it is only the pulp and juice which are fermented.
This distinguishes white wine from red wine as red wine is fermented with the skins on. Keeping the skins on means that red wine has high tannin levels giving a dry feeling in the mouth.
White wines have few tannins so are more refreshing.
White wines are usually fermented for between two and four weeks. During fermentation, the yeast turns the natural sugar into alcohol. If a sweet wine is wanted, the fermentation process is stopped part of the way through the fermentation process.
The Characteristics of Italian White Wine
The grapes used for making Italian white wine are picked earlier than the grapes used to make red wine. This gives the white wine acidity and a refreshing quality.
Many Italian wines have citrus and tropical fruit notes. You will often taste apples, lemons, limes, pears, and stone fruits. You generally won’t get flavors of berries or vanilla.
Many grape varietals are grown in Italy so we are now going to take a look at 15 of the most popular. You may have heard of and sampled Pinot Grigio and Moscato but there are many more worth trying.
1 – Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio is made in the northeast of Italy and has an ABV between 12.5% and 13.5%. It is a popular Italian white wine and possibly one that many of us have tried.
Pinot Grigio shares the same grape variety as Pinot Blanc and the red wine, Pinot Noir but they are cultivated in different areas.
The wine is both crisp and acidic. It has an aroma of almonds, baking spices, and honeysuckle and flavors of lemon, lime, apple, pear, and peach.
Pinot Grigio is a delicate and natural wine and pairs well with light and fresh flavors. Serve it with a salad, a light chicken dish, seafood, light pasta dishes, and risotto. It is best to avoid serving this wine with heavy sauces.
It goes well with a cheese board with gouda, gruyere, mild cheddar, and mild goat’s cheese. It is also a good wine to have with snacks such as chips and dip, hummus and pita bread, and olives.
2 – Moscato d’Asti
Moscato d’Asti is from Piedmont and is very low in alcohol so is a good choice for those who want to enjoy a glass of wine and still keep a clear head. Its ABV is just 5.5%. It is made from the oldest grape variety in the world, Muscat Blanc.
This wine is lightly carbonated so feels like a celebratory drink. It is light-bodied and fairly sweet. It has a unique floral aroma with a hint of cinnamon and mint as well as notes of peaches, fresh grapes, and orange blossom.
You will taste sweet Meyer lemon, mandarin, and honeysuckle, and the flavor tingles on your tongue from its acidity.
This wine is perfect as an aperitif and served with savory snacks such as fresh salami, figs, and melon. It can also be served as a dessert wine with plain sponge cake, fruit tart, or sweet biscuits.
3 – Verdicchio
Verdicchio comes from Marche. It has an ABV between 11.5% and 13.5%. It is light and refreshing and is often used in blends.
This wine is light-bodied with high acidity and aromas of citrus such as lemons and limes. There are flavors of mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit. There is also a pronounced nuttiness with a distinctive almond taste.
When the wine is young, the almond taste can be bitter, but this softens with age making it taste like marzipan.
This is another wine that is ideally served as an aperitif with snacks of almonds, Prosciutto, little savory tarts, potato and cheese puff pastries, savory souffle, and mini quiches. Because it is slightly oily, it is also a good match for truffle pasta dishes.
4 – Viognier
Viognier grapes are grown in Piedmont and the wine has an ABV of between 13.5% and 15% so is alcoholic for white wine. It originated in France but the grapes are now grown in Italy as well.
Unusually for white wine, Viognier is full-bodied. It has low acidity and the nose is of floral aromatics. The flavors suggest peach, tangerine, and apricot.
The color and aroma of the wine indicate that it is a sweet wine but it is generally dry although some late-harvest sweet wines have been made with this grape.
Because Viognier is rich, it pairs well with richer proteins such as roast chicken, turkey, and poached salmon. It also works well with lightly spiced Indian food. When it comes to cheese, choose a soft cheese like Brie or a piquant cheese such as Gorgonzola.
5 – Cortese
Cortese grapes are grown in Piedmont and the wine has an ABV between 11/5% and 13.5%. It is a crisp and fresh wine even though it is grown in a warmer climate. It is medium-bodied and acidic.
The wine has an aroma of honeydew melon with herbal notes. When you taste it, there are hints of green apple, lemon, grapefruit, pear, and peach with occasionally a hint of almond.
There is some minerality and sometimes a creamy and nutty texture.
Cortese pairs well with chicken in a white wine sauce, pesto pasta, and seafood dishes with basil and lemon. When it comes to cheese, sip a glass of Cortese with soft cheese, goat’s cheese, or Feta.
6 – Gewurztraminer
Gewurztraminer is produced in Trentino and has a high ABV of between 13.5% and 15%. It is an off-dry wine with a little sweetness and low acidity.
This wine has exotic floral scents and flavors of grapefruit, tropical fruits, tangerine, and spices such as ginger and lemongrass.
This fruity wine pairs well with dishes that have fruit in them such as a Waldorf salad and waffles with a coconut and pineapple sauce. Try it with soft cheese and spiced tropical fruit chutney.
It also goes well with poultry, including chicken, turkey, and duck. Try it with quiche and egg dishes such as omelets.
7 – Garganega
Garganega is produced in Veneto and has an ABV of between 11.5% and 13.5%. The grape is versatile and is used to make Soave and Gambellara as well as sparkling and dessert wines.
Garganega-based wines are the color of straw and they become more intense as they age.
The dry versions of Garganega have flavors of flowers, almonds, and apples, while the dessert wines taste of tangerine, peach, and honeydew melon.
Dry Garganega wines pair well with mussels, scallops, lobster, fish, and grilled poultry. The green notes in the wine can be enhanced with a herbal-based dish such as fish in chives and butter.
The dessert version goes well with fruit desserts like an apple tart.
8 – Inzolia
Inzolia is produced in Sicily and has an ABV of 12.5%. While it has most famously been used as an ingredient in the fortified wine, Marsala, it is seen more and more as a crisp, dry white wine both in blends and as a single variety.
These dry wines have distinct floral and nutty characteristics with notes of apricots, citrus, and peach. They have low to medium acidity.
Inzolia works well as an aperitif. It also pairs with shellfish, seafood, and fish as well as risotto, pasta dishes with vegetables, and soft cheeses such as Brie and Ricotta.
9 – Vermentino
Vermentino has an ABV of 11.5% to 13.5%. The grape used to produce this wine goes by different names depending on where it is produced. In Pigato, it is called Liguria while in Piedmont, it is called Favorita.
It is in Sardinia that it is known as Vermentino.
Vermentino wines are crisp, dry, and light-bodied. They have mineral and saline characteristics. When you taste it, you will have notes of lime, grapefruit, green apple, orange, and satsuma, as well as a hint of almond.
Vermentino pairs well with seafood, pesto pasta, vegetarian pasta, pork tenderloin, fish, and salads. When it comes to cheese, serve it with baked Ricotta, Feta, and pizza with Mozzarella.
10 – Arneis
Arneis is from Piedmont and has an ABV between 11.5% and 13.5%. It is an ancient wine, the grapes having been grown since the Roman era. However, it verged on extinction during the two World Wars but was reintroduced during the 1960s. It is now thriving.
The wine is medium-bodied with low acidity. It has floral aromas such as chamomile, and tastes of stone fruits, orchard fruits, honey, and raw almonds, with sweet spice notes.
Arneis pairs well with white meat like chicken and turkey and with mild curries. It also goes well with spaghetti carbonara and dishes with a cheese sauce. In the summer, it is refreshing with a salad, a platter of roasted vegetables, and cold meats.
11 – Friulano
This wine is produced in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and has an ABV of 11.5% to 13.5%. It originates in France but is now rarely cultivated anywhere else but in Italy.
Friulano is a light-bodied wine and it has aromas of wild meadow flowers, ripe white fruits, and almond blossom. It has flavors of green pepper, white peach, almond, and grapefruit, with a touch of honey.
The young wines have hints of minerality.
Friulano pairs well with vegetables, chicken, and seafood. Try it with spaghetti vongole or rice pilaf. A good dish to serve Friulano with is prosciutto-wrapped asparagus topped with a poached egg.
12 – Falanghina
Falanghina wine is one of the oldest grape varieties cultivated in Campania. It has an ABV between 11.5% and 13.5%.
This wine has two sub-varieties, Beneventina and Flegrea. They are both medium-bodied and have medium acidity. However, Beneventina is floral while Flegrea tends to have tropical fruit and citrus flavors.
Falanghina pairs well with scallops, prawns, and clams. Dishes with lemon, garlic, and parsley also go well. Tomatoes are a match made in heaven. Try tomatoes baked with marjoram, parsley, and breadcrumbs.
13 – Soave
Soave is produced in Verona and has an ABV of 12.5%. It is a blend of the Garganega grape with small amounts of Chardonnay and other varieties.
This wine has three styles, dry, sparkling Spumante, and sweet Recioto. All varieties are delicate wines and are light-bodied. They have flavors of sweet marjoram, citrus zest, honeydew melon, and peach, with a subtle saltiness.
The sparkling version is best served as an aperitif. The others pair well with chicken parmigiana, risotto, pasta primavera, cannelloni, cauliflower soup, roast chicken, shellfish, asparagus, and veal scaloppini.
Breaded Camembert is also a good choice.
14 – Fiano
Fiano hails from Campania and has an ABV between 11.5% and 13.5%.
This wine is crisp and aromatic and is fuller-bodied than many white wines. Even though it is low-yielding and early-ripening, it has distinctive fruity notes.
You will get hints of Asian pear, honeydew melon, lemon, grapefruit, and hazelnut, with a tendency to develop spicy and smoky notes. There is an aroma of jasmine.
Fiano is an excellent wine to serve with creamy chicken, pork pasta dishes, creamy cheese dishes, chicken and leek pie, and rich seafood soups.
15 – Catarratto
Catarratto is from Sicily and has an ABV of 11.5% to 13.5%.
The grape was originally used in bland wines but some winemakers have helped to redeem it. It is a dry and full-bodied wine with hints of peach, apple, lemon, and honey. There are some herbal and tropical notes.
This wine is ideal as an aperitif served with oysters, a charcuterie board, tuna and tomato bruschetta, and olives. It also pairs well with mild curries, Asian fried rice, herb-roasted chicken, chili prawns, and spaghetti carbonara.
Food Pairing For White Wine
Generally, white wines pair well with white meat and fish as well as vegetable dishes and cheeses.
You can approach your food pairing by either complementing or contrasting the wine with your food. You may think that contrasting the flavors of the wine and food is strange but it can balance the flavor of the wine.
This is why white wines often go well with mild curries.
Best Italian White Wines
There are plenty of excellent Italian white wines out there. These are a few of our favorites.
Villa Diamante Fiano di Avellino ‘Villa della Congregazione’
Villa Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva
Pieropan Soave Classico ‘Calvarino’
Frequently Asked Questions
Hopefully, you now have a good knowledge of Italian wines, but in case you have further questions, we have answered a few here.
Which is the sweetest Italian white wine?
The sweetest Italian white wine is Moscato which is a dessert wine.
Which is the driest Italian white wine?
The driest Italian white wine is Pinot Grigio. It is light, crisp, and fruity with citrus and mineral notes.
Is there a difference in ABV between light-bodied and full-bodied white wines?
Yes, light-bodied white wines have a lower ABV than full-bodied white wines. They have an ABV of 12.5% or lower while full-bodied white wines have an ABV of 13.5% or higher.
Which is the best area in Italy for producing white wine?
Piedmont is considered to be the best region in Italy for producing white wine. It produces some DOCG wines, which is the highest quality standard a wine can receive in Italy.
We have given you a broad selection of Italian white wines and hope that you will try some of these. There should be something for everyone whether you like sweet wines or dry, still or sparkling, fruity or citrusy.
Try the food pairings as we have suggested and get the full experience.