Consider this your cheat sheet for go-to, warm weather white wines. 

By Jonathan Cristaldi
Updated August 31, 2018
2015 Pieropan Soave Classico
Credit: Courtesy of Pieropan

When it comes to bright, light, and refreshing white wine from Italy for summer sipping, the first grape that comes to mind is Pinot Grigio. The best examples typically come from Northern Italy and offer pure stone fruit flavors and tingly acidity. But these wines aren't the only refreshing Italian whites.

I recently had lunch with winemakers Andrea and Leonildo Pieropan. Their family pioneered winemaking in the Northern Italian region of Soave. Over plates of halibut crudo, grilled octopus and smoked trout, their Soave really shined, and I was reminded that many other Italian whites can be similarly great with warm-weather dishes.

So, I reached out to six somms across the country to get their recommendations for the best Italian whites—perfect for summer sipping—all under $20.

2017 Pieropan Soave Classico ($19)

The wine that inspired this story is made entirely from estate-grown grapes planted on the steep, volcanic hillsides of the Soave Classico area. A blend of 85 percent Garganega and 15 percent Trebbiano di Soave, it offers up a stunning package of pale lemon-gold color and notes ranging from citrus and orchard fruit to almonds and white florals. The finish is long and tinged with Mediterranean herbs.

2016 Bruno Verdi Pinot Grigio ($16)

“Bruno Verdi has hit a wonderful chord with this round and soft but also vibrant and fresh wine. Add an ‘80s-inspired label and you've got a hot little number on your hands brimming with citrus fruit and nice mineral character.”—Helen Johannesen, Owner, Helen’s Wines/Jon & Vinny’s; Beverage Director, Animal/Son of a Gun/Trois Mec/Petit Trois/Kismet, Los Angeles

2017 Tenuta la Calcinie Vernaccia ($14)

“I had the pleasure of visiting Simone Santini, a.k.a. the Italian Johnny Depp, back in June 2016 at his winery in Tuscany, where I tasted this wine. I was blown away by the meticulous attention to detail—Santini had planted the vineyard himself on a property his uncle owned back in the early 1980s, and has a keen affinity Vernaccia grapes. He has a huge collection of fossils and shells that he unearthed from the soil, so it’s no wonder that underneath the citrus, orchard fruit and white floral notes there is an incredible vein of minerality, and such clean acidity—one for the ages.”—Matthew Kaner, Bar Covell/Augustine Wine Bar, Los Angeles

2015 Bibi Graetz Casa Matta Bianco ($17)

“Bibi Graetz is a groundbreaking, new-wave Tuscan producer. He goes to cooler, coastal Maremma to source grapes for his Casamatta Bianco, a Vermentino-based blend, rounded out by Trebbiano and a pinch of Muscat. With nice weight overall, the wine has plenty of crunchy, fresh pomaceous and citrus fruit, with a just a touch of green tropical fruit notes (from the Muscat, likely). While lively enough to drink on its own, put it next to a lemony seafood pasta or grilled fish for pure, uncomplicated bliss.”—Morgan Harris, Aureole, New York City

2016 Santa Barbara Stefano Antonucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi ($9)

“This wine is textural and mineral-driven, with bright acidity. Verdicchio (also know as Trebbiano di Soave) is one of the few Italian whites heralded as age-worthy, and in the Marche region of Italy’s Adriatic coast Verdicchio really shines. It's a special bottling that is made for Importer Kermit Lynch by Stefano Antonucci, a Tre Bicchieri award winning winemaker.”— Victoria James, Piora, New York City

2017 Lunae Colli di Luni Vermentino ($18)

“Great balance to this Vermentino! Lots of fresh acidity but really distinguished texture, voluptuous and creamy, subtle herbaceous note of fennel and sagebrush, dried oranges, stony minerality, bright lemon aromas, and a noticeable saline undertone. It’s incredibly food-friendly, and can hold up to some pretty rich dishes.”—Matt Montrose, Crenn Dining Group, San Francisco

2016 Gini Soave Classico ($20)

“From vineyards planted in the historic hillsides of the Soave Classico region, this 100 percent Garganega Soave Classico is aged on its lees for at least six months, adding beautiful body and depth to underlying bright stone and tropical fruit and thirst-quenching acidity.”—Erick Cadena, Sommelier, Boulevard, San Francisco