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#SnoothPVA: Indigenous Varietal Italian White Wines From North to South

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Twelve indigenous Italian white varietals waiting to be tasted by wine writers

Straight from an incredible lunch at Salinas, where we experienced the wines of Ribera del Duero, our group of wine writers headed back to the bright white basement of New York City’s Altman Building, where we had previously started our day sampling the fresh and zesty wines of Brazil.  It was time to sample twelve indigenous Italian white wines, starting with wines from northern Italy and working our way down to the southern Italian regions.

We were in New York City for the Snooth People’s Voice Wine Awards, and Snooth had diligently put together several spectacular wine tastings over the course of the weekend – I was extremely excited to experience some of the indigenous varietal white wines of Italy.  At the helm of our tasting was Gregory Dal Piaz of Snooth, along with Giuseppe Capuano of Vias Imports Ltd., a company with a comprehensive and rather impressive Italian wine portfolio. Ranging in price from $16.99 to $32.99, twelve white wines were waiting to be sampled by each of the writers in our group.

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One of Oregon’s Italian varietal white wines: Vermentino

Most of my readers know that I am, at heart, an Oregon wine gal.  Oregon is a state that has hundreds of micro-climates that provide all sorts of different terroirs that are excellent in their own ways for growing all sorts of different wine grape varietals.  From Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs in the south to Pinot Noirs and Rieslings in the north, we also have areas that grow certain Italian varietals: Vermentino, Lagrein, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and of course, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, we actually produce more Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio in Italy) than any other region in the world.  And although some of the fruit for Oregon winemaker Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines is sourced from Washington (Remy is known for producing robust Italian old-world style wines in the heart of Pinot Noir country), I absolutely love Remy’s Oregon grown Lagrein.  A Nebbiolo, the noble grape of Barolo, was produced and grown in the Willamette Valley by Cameron Winery, and Southern Oregon’s Troon Vineyards successfully grows Vermentino – an acid driven, food-friendly spectacular white wine.

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Dry Muscat from the Vallee d’ Aosta wine region

Aside from the plethora of Oregon Pinot Gris’ and Pinot Blancs that I’ve sampled, along with the Vermentino from Troon and a few Italian whites and sparkling wines that were sent to me as samples (which I absolutely loved), I haven’t had much experience with white Italian varietals.  The Snooth tasting we were about to embark on with Vias Imports had me very excited to explore some of Italy’s indigeneous white varietals from different wine regions throughout the country.  Starting in the north, with Vallee d’ Aosta, Trentino and Friuli Venezia Giula wine regions, then heading down to Umbria and  Calabria; as well as, the island of Sardegna, the following are reviews of my favorites from the tasting from north to south.

The Maison Anselmet, Chambave Muscat Vallee d’ Aosta DOC 2011 ($26.99) was a very interesting, dry Muscat – I had never had a dry Muscat prior to this tasting.  In fact, I was under the assumption that all Muscats were sweet.  Peach and lemon peel aromas and flavors were highlighted by soft, mineral undertones. With viticultural roots tracing back as far as 1585, the Anselmet family only steered away from just private consumption in 1978.  Since 1978, Maison Anselmet has grown to be one of the most noted producers in the area.  And, with vineyards located in the mountains (with often rough weather patterns) at elevations between 1,970 feet and 2,700 feet, you’ve just got to respect what these folks go through to harvest the grapes.

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The Kerner varietal is an unusual cross between a red grape and a white grape

Sitting at an elevation of 2,625 feet above sea level in the wine region of Trentino,  and located in South Tyrol in the mountains of Valle Isarco, Strasserhoff winery is one of the oldest in the region – dating back approximately one thousand years.  They produce just small quantities of Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer and Kerner, and we tried the Kerner, which is an unusual cross between a red varietal called Schiava and the well-known white varietal Riesling.  The 2011 Strasserhoff Kerner Valley Isarco DOC ($26.99) had aromas of melons, mangoes and nutmeg.  On the palate, it was lively and vibrant with zesty citrus notes and a long, juicy finish.

The 2011 Luisa Ribolla Gialla Isanzo del Friuli DOC ($21.99) is 100% percent Ribolla Gialla varietal.  Starting out with about twelve and a half acres in 1927, this multi-generation family owned operation now has 185 acres of land, which is located in the Friuli Venezia Giula wine region.  Beautifully aromatic, this rich wine displayed floral and fruity notes of jasmine and peach. On the palate, it had nice depth of character, was rather smooth and was very nicely balanced.

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One of my favorites from the tasting: Argillae Orvieto from the Umbria region.

Moving south to one of the central wine regions of Italy, Umbria, I really enjoyed the Argillae, Orvieto DOC, 2011 ($16.99).  Orvieto is Umbria’s most famous wine, and the Argillae 2011 Orvieto is a blend of five different varietals: Trebbiano, Grechetto, Chardonnay, Malvasia di Candia and Sauvignon. Owned by three families, the Argillae wine estate extends over 635 acres with 170 acres of vines.  The 2011 Argillae Orvieto was lively and vibrant, as well as being elegant.  Floral and almond aromas and flavors were rounded out by fresh acidity and tropical zest. I absolutely loved that this maintained a certain elegance while offering clear and focused vibrancy, this was one of my favorites from the entire tasting.

Continuing south into the boot of Italy, you’ll find the Calabria wine region, where Statti, Greco Calabria IGT 2011 ($22.00) was produced.  The Statti family has lived on the same land since the 18th century, and they believe that their solid understanding of their vine-growing land enables them to produce fantastic Calabrian wines, like the 100% percent Greco Biano varietal that is used to produce the 2011 Greco Calabria.  I loved the smooth, palate pleasing texture of this wine, and it’s fruity characteristics were really well rounded.  Fresh, focused, clean and totally enjoyable.

IMG_5529I love the Vermentino that is produced here in Oregon by Troon Vineyards, so I wasn’t surprised at all to find that I absolutely enjoyed the Nuraghe Crabioni, Vermentino di Sardegna DOc 2011 ($20.99).  The Nuraghe Crabioni vineyards are located on the island of Sardegna where they benefit from warm winds from the south, along with cool sea breezes.  This 100% percent Vermentino offered more body and structure than most of the other white varietals we tried, and the tropical fruits really stood-out.  Herbaceous, bright and incredibly well balanced, this was excellent.

I was so impressed by the diversity in flavors, textures and depth found in the different Italian varietals, it was much like what I experience with different characteristics found in the Pinot Gris’ and Pinot Blancs we have throughout the state of Oregon. But, to be able to stand in a vineyard in Sardegna or Vallee d’ Aosta while tasting some of these Italian white wines? Now that would be a dream come true.

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2013-SnoothPVABloggers-30deg-smallClick on the links below to see what my esteemed wine writing friends thought of the white wines of Italy.

Snooth PVA: il gran giro d’Italia con dodici vini bianchi (Benito’s wine Reviews)

Excellent Italian Whites – Exploring the White Wines of Italy Plus Two Bulk Buy Selections (The Reverse Wine Snob)

Learning About the White Wines of Italy With Snooth – One Region at a Time (Vindulge)

A Regional Tour of Italian Whites ( The V.I.P. Table)

SnoothPVA: White Wines of Italy (My Vine Spot)

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