ITALY’S PREDOMINANT WINES ARE WHITE!
It’s been said that Italy produces a wine to suit everyone’s taste, even if you don’t like wine. Vineyards reach up the slopes of the Alps in the north and the Apennines through the length of the peninsula as well as dominating the vast coastal plains and island provinces.
As the world’s leading winemaker, Italy made an imposing 22% of the total wine produced globally in 2016. At harvest time an estimated 1 million qualified winemakers ply their skills to literally mountains of grapes yielding tens of millions of bottles of wine. While many of these winemakers produce only for family consumption there are multiple thousands of small wineries supplying local businesses.
For those fortunate enough to have traveled extensively in Italy there is quality wine to be had in even the smallest hostelries, often from grapes unknown to the general consumer. For others reliance on the judgment of local importer-distributors and savvy Italian restaurant owners is the best hope of selecting the optimal wine for the appropriate occasion. While Thai preference for red wine is apparent when perusing local retail shelves it’s worth noting that white wine production accounts for 54% of total Italian output, most of which are crisp, well balanced and great complements to multiple dining experiences.
Considering that Italy has the 14th longest coastline in the world it’s obvious that the bounty of the sea is reflected in the daily menus of the local populous. Let's take a look at some of the many white wine options that actually lead the way in making Italy the world’s largest wine producer.
Topping the list are the increasingly quaffable sparkling or spumante wines primarily from the Veneto region. Prosecco, made from glera grapes, recently overtook Champagne in terms of annual global sales. Price helps in this growth market mostly due to the much less expensive bulk or Charmat method of getting the bubbles into the wine as opposed to Champagne’s methode champenoise in which secondary fermentation takes place in each bottle over a minimum period of 2 years. Prosecco bubbles may not be as fine but at one quarter the price of Champagne it fills the bill with everything from steak to deep fried calamari.
Ubiquitous Soave, made mostly from garganaga grapes, is an inexpensive if indistinct go-to white when there are few options. That said pinot grigio is on the rise from many vineyards and is fast overtaking the Italian white market with its crisp clean finish much in the style of sauvignon blanc. It’s a delight with fish, fowl and lighter white meats.
Trebbiano is the most commonly grown white grape in Italy made in styles from bone dry to semi-sweet, the latter of which can age with grace for a decade priming it for numerous desserts and cheeses. Verdicchio, mostly from Marche province, is a high acid white with clean finish when properly made suiting it nicely for shell fish and roasted chicken. Vermentino is another popular white grown in Piedmont and Sardinia. Floral and mineral aromas plus herbal scents lends it to many seafood specialties as well as creamy pastas.
Best bets for finding these and other food friendly Italian whites are World Gourmet wine shops next to Paragon Gourmet Market, ItalAsia’s several independent wine shops including Central Silom, and Wine Selection in Thaniya Plaza. Enjoy!