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The merit (or lack thereof) of Italian Whites


#1

I think the problem with Frascati is that is suffered the fate of general distaste for Italian whites. Largely due to terrible wines including some Frascatis finding their way to our tables probably through the 80’s and 90’s. I for one haven’t had a Frascati probably in 10 years so it would be interesting to try the offering from TWS.


What is the perfect pizza wine?
#2

I asked 'what has happened to Frascati’ on another board some time ago and the general consensus was summed up in two words…

Pinot Grigio

Another Italian wine we don’t see now that we enjoyed in our early days was Orvieto


#3

Was always a favourite with my parents… they don’t drink it now anymore either… most probably due to lack of availability .


#4

My partner is from Lazio, so I’ve tried a lot of the wines, which are so under the radar they are practically invisible. There is plenty of good stuff, though. Cesanese in particular is an interesting medium-bodied aromatic red grape (think TWS sell one, though I haven’t tried it).

There are recently a number of interesting “natural” wines from the volcanic Lago di Bolsena on the borders with Tuscany, from from the likes of Le Coste di Gradoli and Andrea Occhipinti.

To my mind Frascati is one of the least interesting of the local wines - a triumph of marketing over substance! Conveniently near to Rome to make a good tourist trattoria staple, i guess.


#5

In honesty, having spent more time in Italy than anywhere else, most of the whites were the sort of wine that be produced at the local taverna in response to ‘what white wine have you got’ they were never meant to be serious and few ever were.
So there is a large list of white wines from Italy that have dropped of the radar as you say because they are largely anonymous, as well as the two mentioned PG fits that bill and will go the same way in time as it offers mainly nothing, most Fianos, Gavis, Trebbianos, Falanghinas, Pecorinos, Grechettos, Soaves and on and on fall into the same category and are almost interchangeable, of course there are exceptions, but they are a small minority and difficult to find as the market has diminished.


#6

100% agree with you :+1:


#7

I love Italian white wine, and it makes up by far the biggest proportion of the whites i drink, so I don’t entirely recognise your picture :slight_smile:

Of course, like everywhere else, most restaurants know next to nothing about wine, and most customers don’t care too much. There are a number of quite serious Falanghinas about, but of course you aren’t going to find them, except in those places where the owner DOES care about wine. And Soave certainly offers excellent value these days - many serious and ageworthy wines for not much money. But yes, the vast majority of the others you mention are going to be dull - just as the vast majority of verdejos and albariños in Spain will be, and the vast majority of chardonnays and sauvignons in France.

When in Italy I rarely have any problem finding interesting white wines to drink. But then I probably do look out for them rather too much!


#8

Not sure about my stats on drinking Italian whites, but I don’t recognise that picture either.

OK, maybe all the famous greats are red (Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Vino Nobile, Chianti - have I missed anything?), but beyond that high quailty whites spring to mind as easily as reds.


#9

I agree. There are definitely some weak and, frankly, tasteless Italian whites – but there are also tasteless or nondescript French and Spanish ones. The fact that we can think of more Italian examples is maybe related to the fact that they got more native grape varieties than Spain and France combined.

I can think of a lot of areas and wines that I love. Planeta’s Fiano had recently wowed me with its complexity of nose and flavour; Friulano can be a great food white, pretty much any Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc from Alto Adige get my vote (special mention to Nals Magreid Co-op, Cantina Terlano and Alois Lageder); I also regularly enjoy Grillo from Sicily (especially when made by someone like Planeta), Vermentino Di Gallua from Sardinia is a favourite and the occasional well-made Falanghina and Verdicchio are a joy.

Of course, you could cite many more examples of thin and unmemorable whites, but there are enough out there to bring pleasure, and they are fantastic food wines (which is probably true about Italian wines in general).


#10

Really ? where are they, certainly not on the shelves of merchants here, and in Italy where I have spent an awful lot of time over the years virtually all the serious wines on lists are red, of course there are exceptions, I have already stated that but in general terms no.

I have had great Italian whites but they are very difficult to dig out, and if you take for example Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, how many producers of this grape, and there are hundreds, make good wine 3,4 ? and both Valentini and Emidio Pepe charge around £90 a bottle now for two wines I have drunk and are good no more, Verdicchio as I have said before make some great wines but you won’t, see them here and you have to go to the source to find them there, How many good Soaves are available, the same three or four have been on their own for years, I am afraid we beg to differ on this.
The fact they have so many indigenous grapes is both a strength and a weakness, I love the variety but for years and continuing to few producers make anything of them, to most it is just a different name on the label, a shame they have the material but don’t make the most of it.


#11

Forgot to mention another favourite- Arneis from Roero. Floral, peachy, honeyed, structured.


#12

Me to, but again a very small area with a rare grape and huge variation in the end product.


#13

But does it matter? If one concentrates on buying tried and tested producers, why would it matter than many are making mediocre wine?

Do we use the same argument for mediocre Shiraz? Or Chardonnay?


#14

Not a good analogy Inbar, the fact that Shiraz or Chardonnay have a huge amount of producers also means they have a very large number of very good producers, Arneis doesn’t so the choice is very restricted, as would be expected, it doesn’t matter if you are satisfied with drinking the same winery all the time, that is not a criticism just a fact.
In the 70s the grape was an endangered species, only Vietti kept it going, though Giacosa also made the wine from bought in grapes, the one really good one I had has disappeared from any lists and all of the rest have been decent but not anything to get excited about, I commented on the grape some time back, this chart from Wine Searcher shows a pretty flat standard of quality and the three best are made in Australia !


Of those few top producers Vietti is the only one I have not drunk, the others despite their credentials were very disappointing, the one sold in Waitrose is better.


#15

I consider myself told! :wink:

But seriously, it seems that the issue you’re pointing to is then not whether there are good producers of wine x, but whether there are enough good producers of wine x to offer variety and change.
Sounds like your answer - as far as Italian whites is concerned- is a resounding ‘no’. Personally, I am glad to stick with one or two producers whose white wines I enjoy - I honestly don’t see a problem with that, as there are enough other grapes to explore, for which perhaps there is more variety of producers.

Incidentally, have you ever tried Arneis from Australia?


#16

I really don’t understand the problem finding decent Italian whites.

Let’s start with TWS, as one example of a merchant, and try finding wines I would buy with confidence, either because I know that particular wine as being good, or because I regard the grape and/or the producer as being good/ reliable. The others may well be good too, but I know less about them - I am not trying to single out the very best, just to illustrate how I do not have any problems finding decent example.

•I can’t remember having a bad Pecorino, so would be happy to try any of those.

•I know the Soave range of Pieropan, and like them all. The basic Soave Classico is fine and good value, while the single vineyard ones repay aging. Coffele is also regarded as a good Soave producer, but I know those wines less well.

•I would give The Society’s Gavi a punt as I generally find the grape good value. On an unknown wine list, I regard Gavi as a safe choice

•Hofstätter is a strong producer, so I would try his Pino Bianco with no qualms.

•I have drunk quite a lot of Lugana Cà Dei Frati, and would happily recommend that. Indeed I am tempted to buy some right now.

•Moscato d’Asti is another banker if you like the style. Best with strawberries IMO. The Elio Perrone is decent stuff.

On a different tack, world class Italian whites that spring to mind are Ben Rye sweet Muscat. And Benanti Pietra Marina from Etna.


#17

If you are thinking about more interesting (and expensive) stuff you might like to take a look at Buon Vino’s website. I don’t recognise many wines there, but the one I do recognise are good.


#18

I agree TWS have some really decent Italian whites. I think what @cerberus is meaning and forgive me if im wrong, is that tws aside there isn’t a huge amount we see here in comparison to other regions such as France for example or Australia. I had a mission last year to find a decent Fiano and I finally did but it took me a while, this was it: http://www.cantinecaggiano.it/en/prodotto/fiano_di_avellino_docg/
I have also found some great Verdicchio and gavi di gavi . I loved coffeles soave , it was really good last year and I also agree that the Lugana is also a wonderful wine along with others.
It think when you go to an Italian restaurant, you expect to see an abundance of wonderful Italian whites but a lot of the time that’s not the case and that’s a real shame because people like you and me then go away disappointed and wonder why there are so many mediocre Italian whites on these menus in comparison to the reds available.


#19

That, I wholeheartedly agree with! But I wonder if that is simply about the more average restaurants catering to the more average drinker’s palate. I bet this won’t be the case at Locanda Locatelli, for example.

Strangely, I find that I ‘dumb down’ white wine choices - if I host friends who don’t care one jot about complexity in wine. Perhaps I’m being over-cautious, but I prefer to let people drink what they’re used to - so a £7 Tesco Pinot Grigio, rather than a £16.99 Nals Magreid one.

Maybe that’s what your average Italian eatery also has in mind?


#20

I am still struggling to understand exactly what @cererbus is saying, but it all seems to be bound up with definitions of high quality (or serious, or expensive) wine, how much is made and/or readily available, and how much one would expect to be made and/or available. Ultimately I don’t think there are easy and indisputable answers.

All I can say is that I personally have never perceived it to be a problem, neither with quality nor availablity, and I do drink a fair amount of Italian wine. Certainly there are wines I fret more about. Greece and Georgia for example, and many other less-well-known wine-producing countries.

The range of wines available in your average to decent British restaurant is another issue. IMO it is appalling across the board, and not just with Italian whites, and one of the 2 reasons I rarely drink off restaurants’ wine lists - the other being price. Time for another thread split? :slight_smile: