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Italian wine recommendations for specific tastes

w
waldrons Mar 13, 2008 01:02 AM

My husband and I like a very specific style of wine, and while we're eager to try new wines, we're pretty sure we're not going to suddenly discover that we love something the polar opposite of our current taste.

So, in Rome, Umbria, and Tuscany, what type of white wine is closest to a Marlborough (NZ)-style Sauvignon Blanc (or French Sancerre)? We're familiar with Pinot Grigio/Gris and Orvieto, of course, but are looking for something a bit more grapefruity (or gooseberry-ish).

Also, in asking the waiter for a wine, aside from "vino bianco, molto secco", how else could we describe what we want in Italian?

Thanks in advance, as always!

Susan

  1. Paul Weller Mar 15, 2008 06:20 PM

    "My husband and I like a very specific style of wine, and while we're eager to try new wines, we're pretty sure we're not going to suddenly discover that we love something the polar opposite of our current taste"

    I have been surprised to find I like some wines that are just what you describe here.

    1. w
      waldrons Mar 13, 2008 03:30 PM

      This query probably would have made more sense left on the Italy board, since I was intending to ask about drinking wines in Italy, not here.

      I know there are lots of choices, and we can experiment, etc., but when traveling and either faced with an unfamiliar wine list or a non-English-speaking waiter staring at me, I wanted to have somewhere to start!

      Thanks for all the suggestions!

      Susan

      3 Replies
      1. re: waldrons
        b
        bropaul Mar 15, 2008 05:04 PM

        Since most Italian wines tend to be quite dry, I would suggest that you try the wine that the locals drink with the food in their area. They've been at it for centuries. For example, in Rome try the Frascati or other wine from the Alban hills, Marino etc. Now, you could try the house wine, but you might be better off trying a 'superiore' or better crafted version of the local wines.

        1. re: waldrons
          o
          obob96 Mar 18, 2008 08:35 AM

          In Tuscany, try a vermentino (from Bolgheri or Colli di Luni) for that lemony-lipsmacker; there are, of course, vermentinos form Sardinia, but when in Rome... In Umbria, grechetto makes minerally, crisp whites, somewhat less floral than vermentino.

          1. re: obob96
            w
            waldrons Apr 2, 2008 02:14 AM

            Thanks, I've added these to my list!

            Susan

        2. c
          Chicago Mike Mar 13, 2008 03:11 PM

          I'll answer your question a slightly different way... Italy's most interesting white wine, IMO, by quite a long shot is Soave Classico Superiore, made largely or 100% from the garganega grape.. It doesn't have the herbaceous edge of sauvignon blanc... reminds me relatively more of a chardonnay...

          But it's a very food friendly white wine with quite alot of depth as opposed to alot of other italian whites which are much "thinner" IMO (pinot grigio, tocai, verdicchio, orvieto, vermentino...).

          Lesser soaves can be blended with a number of other varietals so look for classico superiores.

          Also... if while in tuscany, don't miss the brunellos, one of the great red wines of the world, IMO.

          Lastly, a very multi-purpose semi-bubbly that I'm very fond of is Moscato d'Asti... great apertif, goes nice with alot of entrees, and matches alot of desserts, especially high-fruit content and/or chocolate.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chicago Mike
            w
            waldrons Mar 13, 2008 03:28 PM

            Thanks, Chicago Mike, this is good info. I've had Soave in the past, and I've liked. I would also agree with your description of the "thinner" character of pinot grigio,e tc. (We started drinking wine with Orvieto, PG, etc., but find we actually like wine with more taste now!)

            I love Moscato at the end of a meal, so thanks again!

            Susan

          2. r
            RicRios Mar 13, 2008 01:14 PM

            "we're eager to try new wines"

            Then by all means do it!
            Look for local grapes. If you see a grape name that you don't know, then that's what you should be asking for.
            Hundreds and hundreds of different grape varieties in Italy to choose from.
            Many (most) never get imported to the US ( reason: "consumers don't know them" ...! )
            What better occasion to try new stuff?

            10 Replies
            1. re: RicRios
              maria lorraine Mar 13, 2008 03:01 PM

              Agreed. You're not going to find the exact type of wine you already like in Italy -- believe me, SB grown in Italy is not going to taste like other SB you've already had. Same for Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Nero (Noir) and most French varietals.

              And no one is asking you to love things that are "the polar opposite of our current taste." Why not try the lovely, refreshing white wines of Italy?

              Gavi, in particular, made from the Cortese grape, often has a grapefruit-y taste, though it won't be a dominant flavor like in the Marlborough SBs. I love Arneis from Piedmont, especially those from Roero. Vernaccia is also a good bet for you. In addition, try Greco, Falanghina, Fiano, Vermentino, Verdicchio, Muller-Thurgau, and Friulano (used to be called Tocai Friulano) from northern Italy.

              Just a suggestion: Probably best to not measure every wine against a predetermined yardstick. Stay open. Just try a glass of many different types of white wines, and see which ones you find appealing. Even try two or three glasses of the same type of wine from different producers. Buon viaggio and Salute!

              1. re: maria lorraine
                w
                waldrons Mar 13, 2008 03:39 PM

                Thanks, Maria. It's especially helpful to have the grape variety name as well as the wine name.

                The only predetermined yardstick is our tastes.... I was trying to give everyone an idea of what we like, so we didn't get recommendations for Chiantis or Super-Tuscans or something that we aren't going to enjoy. (And yes, my husband will probably have a glass of red with his bifsteak fiorentino, but still, our preference is mainly for dry whites!)

                Susan

                1. re: waldrons
                  maria lorraine Mar 13, 2008 04:02 PM

                  I knew you had a dry white wine preference. I tried to dial-in your flavor preferences in the first three wines I recommended.

                  And, in case a Friulano falls across your path (Mike calls them Tocai, the old name), I don't think they're thin, though some are. I've had about 70 different ones during my visits to Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, and many are fleshy, round and satisfying.

                  Even some white wines formerly considered thin are now grown using better fruit-farming techniques, which gives them more flavor. The improvements in fruit-farming employed by the Tuscan wine-growers (usually borrowed from the New World) have really spread throughout Italy. Additionally, some white wines now undergo malolactic fermentation and/or receive a little barrel aging, both of which can make a white wine taste "bigger." It depends on the winery. Though malolactic and barrel-aging can also mask the taste of the grape if overdone.

                  There's a new Italian white wine I've recently tasted -- Erbaluce -- recently described by Carswell on this board: "Erbaluce's aromas/flavours tend to white fruit and citrus with an undercurrent of volatile herbs (sage?) and minerals." With your stated flavor preferences, that might be a wonderful wine for you to try.

                  I've spent a great deal of time tasting wine in Italy, and Soave, except for the truly exceptional ones that are made, isn't among my favorites. I find Soaves thin (!), like Pinot Grigio, Fiano, and Frascati.

                  Nothing beats actual experience. Just try a lot of white wines and see what you like. What discoveries you may make! Best, M.

                  1. re: maria lorraine
                    ChefJune Mar 18, 2008 08:55 AM

                    <I've spent a great deal of time tasting wine in Italy, and Soave, except for the truly exceptional ones that are made, isn't among my favorites. I find Soaves thin (!), like Pinot Grigio, Fiano, and Frascati. > hmmm I wouldn't put Fiano in that category, Maria! I have had some that are generic, but when I think Fiano, I think Mastroberardino, and the ones I've had are not thin and watery (my take on most PG).

                    1. re: ChefJune
                      maria lorraine Mar 18, 2008 10:06 AM

                      I knew I should have been more specific. In years past, Fiano has been thin overall, but there are some fine fleshy versions of the varietal. You mentioned the Mastroberadino.The Feudi di San Gregorio is also one. And Fiano is unusual for a white wine -- it gets rounder and fuller as it ages. Thanks for your comment/clarification, Chef June.

                      1. re: ChefJune
                        z
                        zin1953 Mar 18, 2008 12:36 PM

                        Let's specify that "PG" is the Italian versions of "Pinot Grigio," as most Alsatian versions of "Pinot Gris" are ALSO not thin and watery . . . ;^)

                        Cheers,
                        Jason

                        1. re: zin1953
                          c
                          Chicago Mike Apr 2, 2008 08:04 PM

                          amen

                    2. re: waldrons
                      z
                      zin1953 Mar 14, 2008 06:59 AM

                      Maria is absolutely right in her recommendations. I'd definitely follow her advice. (Me - I'm an idiot; I missed that you were GOING to Italy, and thought you were just looking from home. Sorry.)

                      In particular my personal favorites are the Arneis made by Vietti, by Giacosa (both of these are from Roero), and Ceretto (which actually comes from Langhe). I also love the Vernaccia di San Gimigiano from Terruzi, as well as their Terre di Tufi, and a handful of others. But while these are "top" producers, these are also available here in the US, and I have no doubt there are literally dozens of producers as good that we don't see outside of Italy.

                      Enjoy!

                    3. re: maria lorraine
                      w
                      waldrons Apr 2, 2008 02:16 AM

                      By the way, we tried a Vernaccia di San Gimignano at a restaurant here at home recently, and really enjoyed it. Thanks!

                      Susan

                      1. re: waldrons
                        maria lorraine Apr 2, 2008 03:01 AM

                        Nice to know. M.

                  2. oolah Mar 13, 2008 10:08 AM

                    I can't think of any Italian wines that taste like NZ SB, but if you like those, you might also enjoy other crisp mineral-driven whites like Tocai Fruilano and Soave. They're don't have that gooseberry or grapefruit, but they tend to be leaner wines with citrus-y notes.

                    1. z
                      zin1953 Mar 13, 2008 07:53 AM

                      Whiner is right. Nothing tastes like Sauvignon Blanc than a Sauvignon Blanc . . . nothing tastes like a Vernaccia di San Gimignano than a Vernaccia di San Gimignano; nothing tastes like an Orvieto . . . .

                      So the closest you're going to get is a Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli or the Alto-Adige, but since nothing tastes like a MARLBOROUGH Sauvignon Blanc than another Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc . . . in other words, a Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli will be delicious, but it won't be a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.

                      Cheers,
                      Jason

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: zin1953
                        w
                        waldrons Mar 13, 2008 03:32 PM

                        True, Jason, but some SBs are made with similar qualities to the Marlboroughs (even some from here in Northern California!), while others are much closer to oakey Chardonnays. Sounds like Friuli and Alto-Adige are the areas to look for.

                        Thanks!

                        Susan

                      2. w
                        whiner Mar 13, 2008 06:54 AM

                        Ask for a Sauvignon Blanc! There are great ones coming out of Italy right now.

                        While there are great whites coming from all over Italy, most of the best come from either Friuli or Trentino Alto Adige.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: whiner
                          TonyO Mar 13, 2008 06:58 AM

                          Planeta makes a white blend that I believe is called La Spinetta. Very well made and sounds like something you would enjoy. Around $15 in the US.

                          1. re: TonyO
                            TonyO Mar 13, 2008 07:04 AM

                            Correction: It is called La Segreta Bianco from Planeta winery (there Chardonnay is tremendous as well at around $50). Also, Tramin makes a Sav Blanc that you may enjoy from Northern Italy

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