The red wines of Italy may get most of the attention, but the country’s best white wines also often achieve greatness, too.
Advertisement
Various wines
Credit: Brian A. Jackson / Getty Images

Italy may be most famous for its world-renowned red wines — mere mention of Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, or Bolgheri is enough to set the hearts of collectors racing — but that doesn't mean that its white wines are any less worthy of attention or, for that matter, adulation. At the 2022 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and Wine Director Carlin Karr, both of the internationally renowned Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado, brought home that point in the most transporting way imaginable.

Over the course of their presentation on iconic Italian whites, they took guests through seven  wines that, though perhaps less familiar to the non-wine-professionals in the crowd, could easily be collected with the best of Burgundy and beyond.

At many gatherings of wine professionals and passionate consumers around the world, "There's always this seminar on the great Brunello [and other] great red wines, and I think the public doesn't know that, across Italy, there are some of these great icon whites, [too]," Stuckey explained. "They're not just iconic, they're world-class…People put them in their cellar and get great returns later."

Karr agreed. "We could've done this seminar with 50 wines from Italy that we think are iconic, and that we think everyone should be aware of," she said, "but we had to narrow it down to seven wines…We're always thinking about the great wines of Italy."

Among the great Italian white wines they featured were the Cristiana Tiberio Fonte Canale Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, the Borgo del Tiglio Friulano Ronco delle Chiesa Collio, and the Tiefenbruner Muller Thurgau "Feldmarshall" Alto Adige, among others. For many people, these wines aren't necessarily all that familiar, but the way they shine in the glass, and at the table, is astounding.

There are, of course, some fantastic white wines that are produced by the most widely respected names in the world of Italian red wine. The Ornellaia Bianco, for example, is a profound expression of Sauvignon Blanc from Tuscany, a worthy counterpart to its iconic red from Bolgheri. And Gaja produces the excellent Gaia & Rey in the Langhe, a superb Chardonnay that compliments its more famous Nebbiolos from Barolo and Barbaresco. Greatness, however, exists across the full gamut of Italian wines.

"What makes any wine fall into the category of greatness," Karr elaborated, is that "it has to have pedigree, ageability, and it has to speak to the place where it's from…Greatness is about [having] been there for 50 to 100-plus years and it speaks to the place. It's different here from other regions. These varieties in this place speak to this terroir and this culture and have an expression of their own here, and are highly ageable, collectible, and exceptional with the cuisine."

That's the beauty of Italy: With such a broad range of terroirs, of soil types and altitudes and climates, its potential to produce classic wines that collectors clamor for is seemingly infinite. Which is exactly why it's so important to learn about its often-overshadowed white wines, too.

"We are predetermined to thinking of Italy [in terms of] the iconic reds," Stuckey said. "You have a region like Tuscany, and is there white wine there? Yes, but the reds...outshine the whites." In Piemonte, he continued, there's interesting whites, "But at the end of the day...it's really about the red varietals there…Part of our exploration needs to be these great iconic whites" that don't necessarily get the attention they deserve. "And that's what this seminar is about."

The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is exactly the venue to challenge those preconceived notions. "There needs to be an education process for discovery," he said. "We work hard to put together a panel with these great wines…You're just providing the greatest stuff for people to try, and they take the Food & Wine Classic experience with them for decades."