The July 24, 2021 LCBO Vintages offers a great opportunity to explore some of the lesser known, but deserving Italian white wines.
One of the biggest revelations to me after I had joined the LCBO media tasting team was that I had been missing out on some great Italian white wines. Since Italy is said to be home to more grape varieties than any other country, we can be forgiven for not being familiar with many of them.
So if you are in the mood to explore this is a great chance to try some at very reasonable prices.
First of all - Italian wines in general are meant to be enjoyed primarily with food. (As opposed to many the new world, smooth and approachable, fruity wines that take you from the dock or deck, through dinner to the after-party.)
So to get maximum enjoyment from your experience, picture yourself in an Italian hillside village at lunch time with crisp white table clothes, light pasta dishes, grilled fish dishes and simple ultra fresh salads with premium lettuce and tomato and cheese garnishes.
Having set the stage (!) now you can pick try a wine or wines from below that might suit your taste.
Yes - Pecorino is the name of a grape and a cheese. Pecorino has a high sugar/acid balance that gives a bit of weight to the mouthfeel. Note that it is till considered to be a dry wine. Pear, Peach, Melon, and Herbs are typical Pecorino flavors along with some hints of licorice and minerals. There is a spectrum with increasing richness and complexity. It can be oaked or unoaked and can reach 14% ABV. Pecorino is noted for providing reasonable complexity while still young. Read more about Pecorino here.
Feudo Antico Organic Pecorino 2019 VINTAGES#: 644930 $15.95 Abruzzo, Italy
This is an entry level Pecorino, on the light-end-of-medium bodied with pear and melon, lemon, white plum and some trademark salinity. Give it some time to open up in the glass and allow the flavours to develop.
Pairing suggestions: Pecorino cheese (of course! They are from the same region) , Feta cheese, seafood, fish, medium weight veal or pork dishes.
Try this Fettuccine and substitute Pecorino cheese for the Asiago. Consider swapping the prosciutto for pancetta. (Although as is would be good too!). Other suggestions: light bruschetta, mussels, pork roast.
Greco di Tufo
Greco is considered to be a signature grape of Campania and Greco di Tufo DOCG produces many of the best examples. Greco is dry, high acid and lean (can be almost astringent at first) with a tart green apple profile, sometimes with stone fruit and passionfruit components. A volcanic minerality is also a trademark. High end examples may show honey and nuts with age. Read more about Greco here.
Donnachiara Greco di Tufo 2018 VINTAGES#: 262964 $19.95 Campania, Italy gets a 94 from James Suckling who describes tangy lemon, lime with some mineral and stone elements. Light to Medium body and flavourful.
Pairing suggestions: Seafood, seafood, seafood - grilled fish, calamari, seafood risotto, seafood pasta, Caprese salad, soft cheeses like Feta, Mozzarella or Robiola. You might like it with Company's Coming Seafood Pie.
Verdicchio, from the Marche region, is an early budding grape that warrants the 'green' reference in Verdicchio. Dry, Light-bodied, high acid with peach/pear characteristics, herbal notes, some lemon, salinity and bitter almonds on the finish. Some of the best examples are from Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC. Read more about Verdicchio here.
Casal di Serra Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2019 VINTAGES#: 268169 $17.95 Marche, Italy gets a 91 from Kerin O'Keefe of Wine Enthusiast who describes aromas of herbs, stone fruit and almond. Peach and lemon show on the palate with hints of the hallmark salinity, High acid keeps it fresh and juicy.
Pairing suggestions: Seafood, fish are the obvious. The herbal notes bring out the best in pesto! And those tricky artichokes and asparagus show well with Verdicchio. Basil Pesto Pizza anyone?
Fiano may be more closely associated with Campania but Puglia is also a contender here. Fiano is a dry, fairly rich, medium weight wine, with medium acidity and no tannins. It is usually considered 'aromatic' with fairly strong peach peach, pear, honey, white flowers characteristics. Some hazelnut or pine notes may be evident. Fiano is known for its waxy texture which gives it weight. (So this is not in the light and 'crisp' category). Read more about Fiano here.
Produttori Vini Manduria Zìn Fiano 2019 VINTAGES#: 909283 $14.95 Puglia, Italy has smoke, lemon and green melon on the nose with a silky palate, of yellow plum, lemon and flint.
Pairing suggestions: Younger Fianos will pair with lighter seafood, chicken with light cream sauces. Older ones will do well with glazed salmon or roast chicken. Cheeses - think goat cheese or Feta. Try this one with Chicken in White Wine Crepes.
Vermentino is Sardinia's signature white grape, known for its characteristic seam of salinity, lime, white grapefruit and green apple notes. It is typically made entirely in stainless steel to keep the peak of its fresh, crisp, fruit elements. (Some producers are starting to experiment with maceration, lees, amphorae aging for a weightier style.) Very dry, with high acidity, it is considered light to medium-bodied and aromatic. Younger ones may show a bit of bitterness on the finish. Read more about Vermentino here.
Su Puddu Vermentino di Sardegna 2019 VINTAGES#: 230599 $17.95 Sardinia, Italy shows typical high acid, lots of aromatics with citrus and melon on the palate.
Pairing suggestions: Mussels, octopus, clams. Artichokes with garlic aioli. Vermentino is one wine that pairs well with fennel. Try Seared Scallops with Fennel Cream or Three Other Ways to use Fennel Cream Sauce.