Italian Wine Varietals: Whites

Here are some common and popular white Italian varietals and their characteristics.

Arneis, which means “little rascal” because it is sometimes difficult to grow, comes from Piedmont. It is part of the DOC group of wines and is sometimes blended with Nebbiolo grapes.
Arneis characteristics: crisp, floral, dry and full-bodied; notes of apricots and pears.

Garganega, one of Italy’s most popular grapes, are grown in the Venice region of Italy. Soave is made using Garganega grapes as a base, and is also used in Gambellara.
Garganega characteristics: elegant and delicate, with good structure and notes of citrus and plums.

Moscato Bianco
Moscato is the oldest known grape grown in Italy from the Piedmont region. It is used to make Asti Spumante, Moscato d’Asti and other dessert or sparkling wines.
Moscato characteristics: sweet or semi-sweet with notes of tropical fruit, rose petals and citrus blossoms.

Pinot Grigio
The Pinot Grigio varietal originated in France, but is now grown worldwide. Italian Pinot Grigio grapes are grown in several regions, especially the northern region of Friuli.
Italian Pinot Grigio characteristics: straw-yellow, light bodied, crisp and acidic.

This varietal is the second most planted grape in the world. It is used in more than 80 DOC wines in Italy, including the blend Orvieto, and as an ingredient in balsamic vinegar, but rarely stands alone.
Trebbiano characteristics: neutral aroma, high acidity.

Vermentino grapes are most commonly grown by the ocean in Sardinia, making it a great companion for seafood. A semi-sweet version is also produced there.
Vermentino characteristics: high in acidity and slightly salty; fruit forward with flavors of citrus, almonds and herbs.

Verdicchio is named after “verde,” or green for its slight greenish-yellow hue. It is grown in the DOC areas of Castelli de Jesi and Matelica and must contain 85 percent of the grape. It is also used in sparkling wines.
Verdicchio characteristics: crisp and clean with high acidity and notes of citrus, almonds and blossoms, with a slightly bitter finish.

Characteristics Help With Wine Choice
Knowing some of the characteristics of these varietals will help you choose a bottle of wine at a store or restaurant, especially if you are in a group with varying tastes. For example, the Orvieto blend has some body from Chardonnay, fruitiness from Sauvignon Blanc and acidity from Trebbiano. This wine, like other blends, appeals to a larger group of people than wine from a single varietal. When dining out, you can also ask for suggestions from the waitress or bartender, who should be able to suggest the best wine for your taste.

Also see our information on proper wine storage & cooling.

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