When most wine lovers think of Italy, they think of sultry reds--hearty Brunelli made from Sangiovese and grippy-but-aromatic Barolos made from Nebbiolo--but with the weather slowly warming up, I think it's high time we devote some attention to the "lighter" side of Italy: its white wines.
Last week, Chris Miller, K&L Hollywood's Italian wine specialist, poured some pretty incredible whites at our staff tasting, and just in time for the weekend's little heat wave. These aren't the cheapest white wines we have in inventory, nor are they simple poolside sippers, but instead complex white wines made for long al fresco dinners on the deck after the kids have gone to bed. There's not much to go around right now, but maybe if you show some interest Chris will order more!
2010 Cascina Le Preseglie Lugana "Hamsa" ($16.99) This citrus-scented white is made from Trebbiano de Lugana grown in the Lugana DOC near Lake Garda in the Veneto. It has nice texture on the palate, without being heavy (who wants to drink heavy wine when it's hot out?), good acidity and juicy tangerine flavors. Try pairing with freshwater trouth stuffed with treviso, herbs and citrus and grilled.
2010 Masseria Li Veli "Askos" Verdeca ($18.99) You don't often seen Verdeco bottled on its own, but then you don't often find Apulian whites with as much nerve and structure as this one. The folks at Masseria Li Veli started making varietal Verdeco in 2009 from 32-year-old vines battered by breezes of the Ionian and Adriatic seas, which helps the grapes maintain their acidity through the hot summer. The wine smells like honeysuckle and jasmine laid out on wet rocks in the sun. There's a citrusy burst in the mouth, which has a pleasant pithy bitterness, mineral accents and just a touch of ocean air.
2010 Carpineti "Collesante" Lazio Bianco ($18.99) If your most recent experience with white wine from Lazio was an innocuous Frascati or Est! Est! Est! (though there are good versions of even these wines, they remain, to many wine drinkers, a reference point for boring), then you absolutely must try Marco Carpineti's Collesante. From an estate just 45 minutes from Rome, the Collesante is made from an obscure, nearly-extinct varietal called Arciprete, which means "Archpriest." Back in the 1700s, when much of the land around Rome was still the property of the church, the Archpriest was tasked with finding wine for Mass--and the wines from this grape were chosen for their tension and perfume. And it's no wonder. In Carpineti's modern iteration, scents of lychee, licorice and chalk are inviting, while the palate has crisp Fuji apple and nectarine flavor, refreshing acidity and a toasted brioche note. This would be perfect for dishes loaded with springtime goodies like fave beans and artichokes.
2010 Elio Ottin Petite Arvin Valle d'Aoste ($22.99) If your idea of relaxing involves jagged mountains, sweeping valley vistas, alpine wildflowers and glacial lakes, then you'll love this Petite Arvin, which to me is the vinous equivalent. The grape, Petite Arvine, is grown predominantly in Switzerland's Valais region, but it may reach its pinnacle in the Valle d'Aoste in northwestern Italy, on the Italian side of Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc). This is incredibly zippy and stony.