Is Italy not country for whites?

by Daniele Cernilli 06/10/19
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Many foreign tasters believe Italy produces excellent red wines but not white ones. This because Italian whites are not easy to comprehend for those use to wine made from classic international varietals.

For the record, we are talking here about wine and nothing else. The title of his article was inspired by the many trips I have taken abroad to take part in juries at important international wine contests where I noticed how foreign critics tend to look down on Italian whites. While there is a general consensus among them that Italian reds like Barolo, Brunello an Amarone are excellent, when it comes to white wine there is ample skepticism, especially for those made from native grapes. I believe some excellent whites like SoaveVerdicchio and Fiano are excessively undervalued because tasters are unfamiliar with them or do not know how to approach them.

Several years ago, an important American magazine printed an article that basically argued that it was probably better for Italy to focus exclusively on producing red wines because there really weren’t any whites worth making. And those that could be taken into consideration were the ones made from international varietals. Chardonnay that was more like the wines made in California, rather than Burgundy, Sauvignon, especially if a single-grape wine and so more like the wine from New Zealand, and Riesling that vaguely recalled that of Wachau. In other words, for them the white wine needs to have standardized characteristics, even textbook, rather than reflect the territory, the varietal, origin and appellation.

The problem is a fairly widespread one and, in my modest opinion, due to a kind of tasting laziness that is limited to six or seven “international” varietals that are easy to recognize. Italian whites are not like this and they confound those with little curiosity or desire to learn. Not all tasters are like this, however, and I know some very well who approach Italian whites with respect and in an unbiased way. Nevertheless, there are others, the majority, who rave about a Palette or a Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc which, all things considered, are not that much different from many Mediterranean Italian whites, but disdain a Timorasso or a Friulano, which I find to be fantastic whites. It boils down to a question of pride and, even in the civilized world of wine, I have understood that sometimes insisting pressing my views is useless.

Is Italy really not a country for white wines? I do think so and I continue to drink a lot of it. I hope that those who read me will understand and back me up on this, so I do not feel alone in defending Italian whites.


 





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