Italian white wines are crisp, soft and highly acidic. They are made to accompany food, not overpower it. Even Italian wines made from grapes popular elsewhere, such as Chardonnay, take on a slightly different, richer character when grown in Italian soil. Italy’s best white wines are grown, primarily, in three regions, “Tre Venezie”, literally the three-Venices: Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige and Fruili-Venezia-Guilia, as well as in Piedmont. The cooler northern climate of these areas adds a crispness to the wines.
Probably the most well known Italian white wine is Pinot Grigio. This light, dry white has become a summer staple in the United States. Produced in Veneto, Pinot Grigio at its best, has a subtle lemony, slightly nutty flavor and goes well with grilled fish, salads and seafood.
Soave is similar to Pinot Grigio and is also grown in Veneto. Soave is a light, straw-colored, slightly sweet and fruity wine. Named after a small town in the region, Soave is made from Trebbiano and Garganega grapes. Soave, Italy’s best selling white wine, is best consumed young, no longer than three years from the vintage date.
Little known in the United States, Gavi is a very dry, delicate wine with strong acidity. It has delicate aromas of grapefruit, honey, flowers and minerals. Gavi is named after a town in the Piedmont region. Produced from native Cortese grapes, Gavi goes well with fish. It is best drunk within three to four years of the vintage date.
Orvieto is made in Umbria and has been made in the same way since Roman times. Umbria’s central Italy location and the slightly warmer climate imparts an earthiness not found in the Piedmont and Veneto wines. The chalky, limestone soil gives a unique character to this wine. Orvieto, named after a village near where it is produced, is a dry wine also made from Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes. Very affordable, Orvieto goes well with grilled chicken or fish.
Produced in eastern Italy, near the Adriatic coast, Verdicchio is a light, dry wine with a pleasant acidity made from grapes of the same name. Verdicchio, unlike most Italian white wines, is capable of aging, but it has a fruity freshness when drunk young. Verdicchio has the flavor of fresh apples and lemon. Relatively inexpensive, this wine is good with seafood and fish.
Arneis, the name means “rascal” in the local dialect, is a product of Piedmont. Light and easy to drink, Arneis is goes very well with summer food: such as salads, prosciutto and melon, or a light pasta primavera. Arneis is also refreshing as an “aperitivo,” a small glass at the start of the meal. Named after the grape from which the wine is made, Arneis is a medium dry wine with hints of peaches, apricots and pears. It is best consumed when it is young.
Chardonnay is most often thought of in conjunction with French or California wine production, but Italy also makes Chardonnay. Most Italian Chardonnay is made in the Alto Adige region in mountainous northern Italy, near the Austrian border. In general, Italian Chardonnays are more crisp than those made in other countries. Most are un-oaked with a light fruit taste that pairs well with lobster, crabmeat and cream sauces.
Asti, named after a town in southeastern Piedmont, is Italy’s most famous sparkling wine – “spumante” in Italian. Made from Moscato d’Asti grapes, Asti is an aromatic, semi-sweet wine. Sometimes called a poor man’s Champagne, Asti Spumante, when well made, can be fruity with hints of ripe peaches and apricots but is quite light when compared to Champagne. Serve Asti well chilled or combine Asti with fresh peach juice to create Venice’s most famous cocktail, the Bellini.
Italian white wines offer variety and unique flavors. The next time you visit your neighborhood wine store, think Italian, try something different and plan your menu around one of these wines.
Herbed Mushrooms with White Wine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, quartered
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place mushrooms in the skillet, season with Italian seasoning and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the wine and garlic to the skillet and continue cooking until most of the wine has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chives. Continue cooking 1 minute.
Pasta with Turkey White Wine Ragu
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 pound lean ground turkey breast
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
- 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
- 3/4 pound penne or any short pasta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and raise the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the turkey is no longer pink and any liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.
Add the white wine to the skillet and boil over high heat until nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, thyme, rosemary and capers and simmer over moderate heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta well and add it to the skillet along with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, chopped parsley and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to serving bowls.
MAKE AHEAD: The ragu can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Rewarm the sauce before using.
Fish Fillets in Herbed White-Wine Sauce
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup bottled clam juice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped marjoram
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Four 6-ounce skinless mahi mahi fillets or any firm thick white fish fillets
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for rubbing
- 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a small saucepan, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, shaking the pan a few times until the nuts are fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
Add the clam juice to the saucepan and boil over medium heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and continue to boi,l 5 minutes more. Add the shallot, thyme and marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Cover the sauce and keep warm.
Light an outdoor grill or heat a stovetop grill pan. Rub the fish fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Grill over high heat, turning once, until grill marks appear and the fish is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a serving plate.
Stir the parsley into the wine sauce. Coarsely chop the toasted pine nuts. Spoon the sauce over the fish and sprinkle with the pine nuts.
Chicken Cutlets in a White Wine Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 8 thin chicken cutlets (about 1 1/2 – 2 pounds total)
- All-purpose flour for dredging
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup white wine (dry)
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus lemon slices for garnish
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Heat oil in a skillet. Pour flour into a shallow dish. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken cutlets in the flour and place into the skillet.
Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to do this in two batches. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil.
Add butter to the pan with the garlic. Let the garlic cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the zest and juice of the lemon. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Stir together.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with lemon slices.
Italian Wine Cookies
- 1 cup white wine
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups olive oil
- 1 teaspoon anise seed or cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 orange zested
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 egg
- 4-1/2 cups all purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment paper.
Mix the first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl and then add the flour. Knead dough on a floured board.
Separate into 1 oz. pieces. Roll each piece into a 6″ long and 1/2-3/4″ thick rope. Then make a loop and pull one end throug;. like a pretzel.
Place cookies on prepared pans. Sprinkle with additional granulated sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cook on a wire rack.
- Cooking With Italian Red Wine (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- A Wine Pairing for Cavatelli, Broccoli and Sausage – A Sicilian Favorite Insolia (manoavino.com)
- The White Wine With Fish Rule (grapeadventure.wordpress.com)
- Wine and truffles in Alba (25truestories.com)
- A Touch of Piedmont (hvwinegoddess.blogspot.com)
- The Wines of Veneto at Eataly (manhattanwithatwist.com)
- Two Charming Italian White Wines (biggerthanyourhead.net)