Italy’s Most Important White Grape Varietals

Italy’s Most Important White Grape Varietals

Italy’s Most Important White Grape Varietals

Arneis (pronounced “are-nayz”) is a good place to start with white grapes. On the nose, it’s mostly flowery, with hints of honey sometimes. It has a good amount of body and tastes of ripe fruit, apple, pear, and peach.

Arneis is mostly cultivated in the Piedmont area, which also produces many of the country’s most famous red wines (including Barolo and Barbaresco). As a result, it’s frequently called “Barolo Bianco,” a reference to both its quality and its fussy growing. Because the grape ripens late and is vulnerable to rot, Arneis is known as the “little rascal.”


Roero is a top region noted for producing world-class Arneis, and many of the superb whites produced there are gaining a bigger reputation outside of Italy. Years ago, Arneis was regarded to be a blending component for larger red wines to help give complexity and depth (a process similar to that employed in Australian and northern French Rhone wines), but today’s Arneis wines have the refinement, elegance, and body to stand on their own.



Grigio Pinot

When it comes to Pinot Grigio (“peeh-no gree-jo”), everyone seems to have an opinion, and many of them are negative, owing to the bland and uninteresting associations the variety has among wine enthusiasts. 



However, depending on where it’s cultivated, Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris as it’s called in other areas of the globe) has a distinct personality. And Italian Pinot Grigio is regarded as some of the greatest in the world, particularly in areas like Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, where the grape flourishes.


Pinot Grigio from Italy is typically crisp and light, with hints of citrus and flowery aromas. These wines are often drier than Pinot Grigio from other regions. They are quite food-friendly, especially for appetizers or lighter cuisine, such as salads, chicken, pork, and white fish meals.


Good Italian Pinot Grigio may be found in three places:
Trentino-Alto Adige is a region in the Italian province of Trentino-Alto
Alto Adige is a region in northern Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland. Alto Adige wines are minerally with natural acidity, resulting in a more nuanced Pinot Grigio that is loved by many knowledgeable white wine drinkers.



Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a region in the Italian province of Friuli-Venezia Giul

Pinot Grigio from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in the country’s northeast, is comparable to Alto Adige. It’s full-bodied and heavier in the tongue than other areas’ lighter styles, with powerful apple, apricot, and peach notes with a healthy dose of acidity.

Lombardy is a newcomer to the Pinot Grigio scene, but it’s a rapidly expanding wine area recognized for a wide range of white varietals, as well as sparkling wines and top-notch reds.



Verdicchio wine (pronounced “ver-deek-kee-oh”) is produced from the same-named grape and is becoming more popular in the United States. It’s grown predominantly in the Marche area of east-central Italy, and it’s easy to mistake it with Trebbiano in terms of flavor and vineyards.


Bottles of Verdicchio may be had for as little as $10 to $20.
For example, before writing this piece, we sipped a lovely $16 Verdicchio (the 2012 Fontezoppa Verdicchio, in case you’re interested). It had a modest aroma, like many Verdicchios, but a robust acidity and citrus, lemon, and lime characteristics on the tongue.


If you’re searching for something a little different, these wines are fantastic choices. They’re also food-friendly. As part of your Italian wine adventure, you owe it to yourself to sample some of these wines. We are certain that you will get addicted.


Moscato is a sparkling wine made from the juice of (Muscat)

“It’s a party / clap clap bravo / lobster and shrimp / and a glass of Moscato,” Drake sings in “Do It Now.”
If Arneis and Verdicchio are still relatively unknown outside of Italy, Moscato (“mos-cot-oh”) has been paving the way for them in recent years. Moscato, or Muscat as it’s often called, has had a meteoric growth in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the hip-hop community’s ability to promote things to a large audience with a single tweet or picture. Some hip-hop communities believe that The new Cristal is Moscato.


Moscato is mostly cultivated in Piedmont and is used to produce Moscato d’Asti, a semi-sweet, semi-sparkling wine with a devoted following in the United States. It’s generally affordable, low in alcohol, and a fun alternative to the standard white wines that many people find too familiar or boring.


It’s a unique grape with a citrus, lemon, and stone fruit aroma and taste. Moscato may be made into a variety of wines, including brandies and sweet dessert wines. It’s a good aperitif or digestif, much as Prosecco sparkling wines.
Moscato d’Asti’s popularity stems from the fact that it was created to be enjoyable.


You may drink it early in the morning (if that’s your job) or late at night, and the little fizz and low alcohol content make it enjoyable to sip and discuss with company. It’s a flexible wine that’s often around $20, with some bottles under $10. Try bringing a Moscato d’Asti to a dinner party next time you’re looking for something a bit unusual to present.



The major grape used in Soave wine (gar-gah-neh-gah) is Garganega (gar-gah-neh-gah). At least 70% Garganega must be present in Soave wines. We’ll go into Soave in further depth in Chapter 6’s “Veneto” section, but wines produced from Garganega should be light to medium-bodied and dry, with citrus flavors and typically almond and vanilla notes on the finish.




Despite the fact that Trebbiano (“treb-ee-ah-no”) is the world’s second most extensively planted grape and is used in more than a quarter of Italy’s DOC wines, it is little known. Why is that? It’s mostly used as a blending ingredient, and its name doesn’t show up on labels very often.


However, in a few famous examples, the Trebbiano grape is used to make wines that are wonderfully fresh and fruity, with just enough acidity to keep things balanced. Orvieto wines from Umbria and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Abruzzo are two popular examples, both of which are affordable.



You don’t have to be on island time to appreciate Vermentino (“ver-men-tee-no”), but its origins and sharp acidity make it ideal for combining with seafood, oysters, and calamari, whether you’re eating on the beach or drinking a glass in a more modest setting.

Vermentino is a white wine variety grown mostly on Sardinia, a major island off the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean. On the Italian mainland, more plantings are popping up throughout Tuscany, Piedmont, and Umbria, and bottles from Corsica Island may also be found.


Vermentino wines are crisp, dry, light-colored, and acidic.
Citrus fruit with lemon and orange notes, nut and almond taste, and a lot of mineral and stoniness on the finish characterize the wines.
We strongly suggest include Vermentino in your white wine rotation, especially since many bottles are priced between $10 and $15.


A Lifetime of Adventure
There are hundreds of grape varieties grown in Italy, and we’ve highlighted 16 of the most popular. You’ll likely come across many more throughout your wine studies, and we recommend that you sample as many as possible. It’s impossible to predict which small-production grape variety will become the next great thing.